Friday, December 14, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: 365 Affirmations for the Writer


Writing is a journey. Every time we sit down to begin a piece or write the first chapter or the first line we are venturing into uncharted territory. We never know how it is going to turn out. Oh, we have a certain idea, like most pioneers or explorers. But, these journeys can take detours; we have to react to circumstances and often go with our gut.

365 Affirmations for the Writer is about listening to those who have gone before us and letting them guide us with their insight, their own trials. They know the terrain, how harsh it can be; they know where we can find water, shade, and rest along the way. By reading what others have said, we can survey the path before us, count the cost, and plunge ahead.

My motivation for compiling 365 Affirmations for the Writer is to offer light along the way. From day to day, week to week, we are getting further inside our writing, further down the path.

The book is 365 days of inspiration—quotes from writers and writing prompts. Here is a what you might expect, from the first week in January:

**
365 Affirmations for the Writer is an eBook I wrote to inspire us to write and keep us writing. If you’re looking for inspiration for you or a fellow writer, then order today. Available from Amazon as well as ALL other outlets.
Every morning I read 365 Affirmations for the Writer by Jane Hertenstein. It's a daily shot of encouragement in the arm.—Sue Shanahan

November 3
Taking Risks
Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To invent. To leap. To fly. To fall.
― Susan Sontag, New York Times, “Writers on Writing”

November 4
Crazy or Insane
One must be capable of allowing the darkest, most ancient and shrewd parts of one’s being to take over the work from time to time. . . Strangeness is the one quality in fiction that cannot be faked.
― John Gardner, from On Becoming a Novelist

Memoir writing. When did you realize you were a writer? Was there a time when words jumped off a page at you? When did you decide you wanted to tell a story?

November 5
Keep Going
The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.
― Richard Peck, Newbery-award winning author of A Long Way from Chicago
**
Check out 365 Affirmations for the Writer, an eBook that will inspire you and keep you writing.
*The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through
Apple

Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble

Diesel

Flipkart

Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)

Kobo

Library Direct

Odilo

OverDrive

Oyster

Scribd

Sony

Tolino

txtr

Yuzu




Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: Beyond Paradise

Looking for a good YA read?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady

Available from Amazon CreateSpace and as an eBook

Tens of thousands of homeless people walk the streets, forgotten, yet each with their own story to tell. Marie James, a 69-year-old bag lady, and a frequent guest at an inner-city mission in Chicago, sat with Jane Hertenstein through the summer of 1995 and recorded this shocking and moving story of life filled with sorrow, loss, mental instability, and hope. Her memoir will break one's heart, yet encourage and inspire. -- "Harrowing inside view of homelessness", -- Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997


The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through
Apple

Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble

Diesel

Flipkart

Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)

Kobo

Library Direct

Odilo

OverDrive

Oyster

Scribd

Sony

Tolino

txtr

Yuzu

Friday, December 7, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing


We begin with a sudden memory, follow it to see where it leads. Yet so many of us tend to ignore these flashes. We think later yet later on we might have forgotten or lost the relevance of the moment, the urgency that led us there. I recommend a process I call write right now. In the amount of time it takes you to brush your teeth, you can jot down the memory and an outline which can be filled in later. The prompts in this book are designed to spur memories, to get you writing. I’ll also direct you to resources, authors to read and study, and places to submit. 



Available only as an eBook

The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through
Apple

Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble

Diesel

Flipkart

Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)

Kobo

Library Direct

Odilo

OverDrive

Oyster

Scribd

Sony

Tolino

txtr

Yuzu


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: Freeze Frame


Many of us are looking to write memories—either in the form of literary memoir or simply to record family history. This how-to book looks at memoir in small, bite-size pieces, helping the writer to isolate or freeze-frame a moment and then distill it onto paper.



I have read this book twice, and highlighted extensively. As a new memoir writer who works in slice of life and brief moments, I find her approach helpful. Highly recommend to all writers of memoir. Enjoyable read!

I'll be teaching Holiday Flash at OCWW in Winnetka, Dec. 20 @ 9:30 - 12 noon



Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir, available through CreateSpace and as an eBook available EVERYWHERE. Order it today.*

*The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through


Apple

Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble

Diesel

Flipkart

Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)

Kobo

Library Direct

Odilo

OverDrive

Oyster

Scribd

Sony

Tolino

txtr

Yuzu

Monday, December 3, 2018

Here's a plug for my book: Cloud of Witnesses

Cloud of Witnesses hooks the reader with well-developed, interesting characters and snappy dialogue. The story features issues faced by many middle schoolers - coming of age, friendship, loyalty to family and classmates - but is set in the backwoods of Appalachia. The activities and language ring true in this slice-of-life tale about a region not usually featured in books. This is an important fish-out-of-water story about empathy and the dangers of and lessons learned from painting everyone in the same circumstances with the same brush.  
-- Marlene Targ Brill, best-selling author of over 60 children's books



Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Golden Alley Press, order from your local bookseller

Thursday, November 29, 2018

That Time of Year--again



"Advent" by James Schuyler

Open my eyes on the welcome
rosy shock of sunshine.

Open the first little door
of my Advent calendar:

a darling hobby horse
on wheels. Open

the window a crack: and
quickly close it against

a knife-like draught. The day
looks warmer than it is.

My other job is helping to curate art at Wilson Abbey/Everybody's Coffee--here is a glimpse at our current project #biggestadventcalendar

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
Come and See

Wilson Abbey Windows #biggestadventcalendar are back! Located at 935 W. Wilson Avenue in Chicago, the three-story building will again unveil each day of Advent a new window decorated with seasonal images.

Beginning December 1, celestial themes with a mix of magic realism will occupy each window, culminating with the final center window December 25. “This year there will be doves in outerspace,” says building manager and co-founder of Everybody’s Coffee, Karl Sullivan. “For instance the Tuskegee Airmen represent the Three Wisemen.” New this year will also be a Winter Wonderland in the ground floor windows of Everybody’s Coffee.

According to Karl Sullivan: “Our objective is to show the intensity and beauty of the Advent season.”

The windows will be composed of mixed media such as sculpture, textiles, innovative lighting, as well as layered paintings. Designers and artists are Karl Sullivan, Suzanne Stewart, Genesis Winter, and Diane Borden.

Wilson Abbey and Everybody’s Coffee invite you to Come and See. Follow them on Instagram and at Facebook=Wilson Abbey Windows and at Twitter using the #biggestadventcalendar. Stop by every day for a new reveal. As you drive by 935 W. Wilson Avenue be sure to look up!

Instagram theabbot939
Facebook Wilson Abbey Windows

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sleeping beneath Southern Lights



Readers of this blog know that I’ve written about being a poor writer. Jobs in the arts don’t exactly pay like jobs in finance. So many of the journals I’ve appeared only offer publishing credit and not payment. I walk a tightrope between wanting to see my work in print and insisting that I am reimbursed for my effort. Anyway, suffice it to say when I drove down to Kentucky for the Book Festival I wasn’t planning on staying at a hotel.

I’m a couchsurfing host in Chicago and went that route first—only one person responded to my request, with the reply that they were busy that weekend. Then I googled camping to find that RIGHT NEXT TO the Horsepark All-Tech Arena was the Horsepark Campground. It seemed like a good idea until the day I left Chicago—in the midst of flurries, with a week of BELOW average temperatures.

I had a few concerns, but took extra layers.

I’m a pro at camping, and have had experience sleeping outside in cold. I just didn’t know if I wanted to do it the night before a book show.

When I pulled into the campground, though I began to get excited. They were ground zero for an outdoor light festival called Southern Lights. Imagine synchronized lights, horses galloping, tin soldiers marching, snowflakes softly falling. There were lights displaying the twin spires of Churchhill Downs, jockeys leading horses, gingerbread houses, and horse stables=all lit up for the season.

After setting up my small tent I walked the circuit and then crawled inside my sleeping bag with the lights glowing around me. It was like falling asleep in a Winter Wonderland.



Monday, November 26, 2018

Stories of a Family Christmas, 1963


Stories of a Family Christmas, 1963



1)
I loved these pajamas! I wore them until the pants became shorts. I kept the cap, for a favorite stuffed animal. This was the house on Hackney Street in Kettering; I must be about 4, almost 5. Nancy is 6. The metal kitchen set was a shared toy, though I might have appreciated it more. Eventually it got moved to a backyard playhouse where it rusted and one day I opened up the oven door to discover a nest of spiders. After that I never touched the kitchen set.
2)
A rare instance of Nancy and I playing together—though to be exact it might be more parallel play. Growing up we were nothing alike. Never one to fall into gender prescribed roles, she was more a tomboy, at home on a basketball court rather than in a kitchen. My sister was a mystery to me. I think today she might be referred to as on the spectrum. Someone with sensory issues. She could not abide clothes with tags on them; they had to be removed. Clothes in general made her itch. She was picky about fabrics and textures. Physical activity was her language. Nancy could occupy herself for hours shooting hoops, whereas I would hole up reading a book. Years later she would likely unwrap baggy shorts and jerseys and basketballs, while I’d cherish gifts of books. One Christmas I read through my stack of books in one afternoon before turning to a book given to my dad, The Summer of ’42, where I came across the word fuck and a scene involving “rubbers.” This definitely felt like a bridge too far.

3)
I remember this girl! Busy Janie wearing her Christmas Day pajamas, with her skates strapped on, making something at her kitchen set. I’m sure I’m trying to tell my older sister what to do. I could never keep my mouth shut. I always had a bright idea. Going a hundred miles an hour, doing two things at once, trying to be the boss. Driven to go further than anyone else.
–––No wonder most times Nancy wanted nothing to do with me.

4)
Wrapping paper is tossed to the side. Grandpa bushed from an early chaotic morning has fallen asleep on the couch. Days of anticipation have now been realized. The momentous moment has passed, and Nancy and I are busily playing with our new kitchen set. We were meant to “share” this gift, just as the older boys, Steve and Tom, were given shared toys. Ones too expensive to be for just one kid.

I might cook up a breakfast and then tackle the dishes in the play sink. I loved to pretend. I could enter a Jane World to escape just as Pop-pop did when snoozing.

It is a picture of American middle-class security, a time of prosperity, as the “greatest generation” forged ahead.
–––Yet there is so much left unsaid.

We are on the cusp of tumultuous years, the Vietnam War, generational divisions, addiction, shame, mental illness.

In the aftermath we will quietly play house.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Holiday Flash


Here is a contest you might want to consider sending flash work inspired by the holidays.

Friday Flash Fiction is about to launch this year's Christmas Competition – usual prize, $50 in the winner's local currency. As ever it'll be sponsored by Comely Bank Publishing.

You'll be invited to take part in two ways:
You'll be invited to submit one (or more) stories to the competition; AND
You'll be invited to vote for the story you think is best.
First of all we'll be inviting anyone to write a flash fiction story of 100 words or fewer. The story has to be in the English language but that's about the only limitation. This year is theme-free – the door is wide open for you.

Every 100-word story posted in from the 1st December until entries close on TUESDAY 18th December will be eligible to win. Entry is COMPLETELY FREE.

In accordance with tradition, last year's winner, Lyn Miller and I will select around half a dozen contenders. Our choice will be purely subjective, but we hope you'll like the ones we pick. We'll be looking for a combination of originality and plain good writing.

Once we've chosen that short list, we'll get back to you – probably just before Christmas – and what will happen is that we'll invite each of you to vote for the winner from our short list.

We'll get back to you towards the end of the month to remind you again. The competition is a public one, but we hope lots of you will enter.

Friday Flash Fiction is a 100-word challenge site that publishes selected work online every Friday. For more information go to http://www.fridayflashfiction.com/

Good luck!



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kentucky Book Festival, Nov 17th

Where else can you go to see a rodeo and a book show? The Kentucky Book Show had it all: Words & Hooves, Books & Horses!
a Stein with a Stain, Berenstain Bear

super excited

on a panel with David Joy and Crystal Wilkinson

Monday, November 19, 2018

Flash Fiction and the Holidays


Flash Fiction and the Holidays

The Yuletide season is a perfect time to write flash memoir.
1)      We have no time to write a gajillion words, so keep it simple and small, haiku Christmas! Remember Dicken’s A Christmas Carol was one of his shortest and MOST popular stories, The best things come in small packages.
2)      So MUCH material is generated by dysfunctional families, Christmas feast disasters, Gift of the Magi moments. We all have memories conjured by this festive/unfestive time of the year.

So I have some ideas I’ll share with you this week as we head into Thanksgiving—which launches us into Black Friday and the Advent Season.

My first tip is to come to a class I’ll be facilitating at OCWW in Winnetka.

Jane Hertenstein - Holiday Flash
When
December 20, 2018

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location
Winnetka Community House, 620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka IL
Registration
Guest – $20.00
Member – $10.00
Non-Member – $20.00
Student – $10.00


Jane Hertenstein leads us in a special Flash Fiction and Memoir workshop and contest. We'll get a flash course in writing flash, then Jane will turn us loose to write 500 words or less, fiction or memoir, on something related to holiday experiences. A week later, member participants are invited to submit their final drafts to Jane, who will select up to three entries to feature in the OCWW newsletter.

Go to https://ocwwinfo7333.wildapricot.org/event-3037545 for more information and to register for the class. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Radio and Memories


Susan Jordan, This American Life
Radio and Memories

Even on the radio I could tell: She was a nice person.

I recently listened to the podcast This American Life where they re-aired a piece originally from 2001—the theme was A Return to Childhood, where Alex Blumberg went in search of his old babysitter, Susan Jordan, in “Ich... Bin... Ein... Mophead.”

It was as much about how we remember and misremember than about how Alex eventually tracked down Susan using a private investigator.

--That was 17 years ago. She must be about my age or a little younger.

I could tell just by the sound of her voice that she was a nice person. It wasn’t said but I could tell as much: Alex had been secretly in love with his fearless babysitter. She was his champion. She would have beaten up a motorcyclist to defend her young charge, whom she felt a bit sorry for. Alex, she hesitated to mention, was a bit bookish and obsessed with stuff beyond his years. She was compelled to “play” with Alex and his sister.

But Susan had her own story, as we learn. Because of family dysfunction she’d moved out of her house or—and it was not clarified—her family had left her. She was a freshman in college, trying to make it on her own on a babysitter salary. The kids she watched came to be stand-ins for her younger siblings whom she missed.

At the end of the call, at the end of the piece she finally confessed. She was afraid Alex had called her because of something she’d done or said. She remembered that time period as not one of her best. She was lost, abandoned, struggling. She was afraid somehow she had messed him up.

1) How sweet and
2) How many times have I thought the same thing. –What a horrible person I was (the unsaid thought is that I still am) The thoughtless, horrible things I’ve said to others, That smug, self-righteous persona I give off=all this will come home to roost someday.

The whole piece is immersed in humanity. In longing. Our desires to change and go back, readjust the dial of memory. It was melancholy and immutable. Frozen in time.

Susan of the 70s, a listening ear to young Alex, Susan of the grocery store, a young newlywed, still the older woman to Alex, and then years later, where the age gap makes them more or less peers—they still cannot bridge the difference. His life went one way and hers another. We cannot plot the course of our lives on a vertical and horizontal graph.

This was a magnificent piece of journalism reflecting memories and our own perceptions of reality.
Image result for alex blumberg journalist
Alex Blumberg, as an adult
LISTEN here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/180/return-to-childhood/act-three-0

Monday, October 29, 2018

This Morning, One Moment


A maple tree flames, catches fire
Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, cloud, grass, outdoor and nature
As the sun slowly slips over the horizon
The cross-country runners lap the track
The world continues to glow
Shooting golden rays over the frosted blades
I am reminded of the movie, Dead Poet’s Society
Autumn leaves trigger scenes of prep school boys
Crossing manicured lawns, school books under their arms
Captain, Oh Captain, Robin Williams, the blue twinkle in your eyes
Knox Overstreet, Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks, Pitts and Dalton
Puck, Ariel, The Tempest, Midsummer’s Night Dream
Make your lives extraordinary
There will come a time when you must choose
Which way will you go, who will you follow?
Plotted on the horizontal and the vertical
—or to some other drummer
Will you disappoint the status quo,
Lead a revolt, stand against power
Run you own race?
Pay tribute to the ethereal gods of nature
Of poetry and dance—
Oh, Captain, my Captain!
Follow your heart!

In this one second of standing still the tree
Flickers and burns, and I—
I walk on, full of resolve and—
so many memories.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

How Do I Get Started?

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they want to write. Great! The world needs your story.

Years later they are still talking about writing. You see, it's easier said than done.

Every day we have to wake up and face hard tasks. Ones that in our imagination seem easy, but once faced with them, we are overwhelmed. How does one get started with a great idea?

I recall one such dilemma I encountered. When I was in high school I wanted to start a club for kids in a housing project down the road. These children didn’t have access to the swimming pool or after-school softball or soccer teams where you have to pay for membership. They had very few opportunities for fun and organized recreation. My idea was to present games, crafts, treats, and mentoring.

This was before the Internet, before social media. How in the world would I be able to get something like this going? It’s not like you can just go into an open field on the property and gather up loose kids.

But that’s what I did. With a giant Earth ball.

I went to a place—maybe it was the YMCA—and told them my idea. They rented me a big, big ball. I’m not sure how I got it in my VW “Bug” and to the housing project. I wedged the ball out of my car and stood in the open field. My heart beat hard in my chest. My head kept telling me if this isn’t one of the most stupid things you’ve ever done, than I don’t know what. No one is going to come. My mouth was dry—I couldn’t even whistle.

A little girl ran outside, curious about what I was doing. I mean little. She was height challenged. So probably older than she looked. I told her to go get her brothers and sisters. She ran away. Well that’s that, I thought. After awhile (she had very short legs) she ran back with them. I told them to go get their friends. A few minutes passed. Well, that was a mistake; I should’ve just been happy with a few kids. But then, they ran back with a whole bunch of kids.

Now what? I hadn’t thought about what we were going to do with the Earth ball. So I made something up. We played tug-of-war, a kind of fatalistic rugby where we pushed it back and forth trying to roll it over the opposing side. I think we called it “Killer Ball.” Then we had Kool-Aid and I handed out little slips of paper inviting them and their friends back next week. Eventually I was able to use a community room at the housing project and do indoor crafts when the weather turned.

How do you get started on a great idea—you just do it. You step off into darkness, into the unknown . This isn’t quite like the Romanovs walking into a windowless room, more like crossing a tall bridge where there might be trolls—if they existed. How do you know?

Unless you try.

Image result for kids pushing a giant Earth ball

Monday, October 22, 2018

Failing Forward



Fear—we’re all afraid of something. None of us want to fail.

When I do my bike trips people are constantly saying: You’re so brave. Not really. I’d wake up every day while on my trips wondering if I’d make it to my destination. You see, I don’t always ride with maps. But, even with maps, I often get lost.

This past summer I rode my bike by myself from Amsterdam to Sandnes, Norway. I had to deal daily with different languages, currency, kilometers, road closures, my smartphone dying. Yet always by the end of the day I got somewhere. I’d put up my little tent, fire up my tin-can stove, and prepare a bit of supper. Always there was a tomorrow where I would once again wake up and question my abilities—and as usual ride closer to my destination.

In Norway on my last day, I made the decision to ride a plateau rode that is known for its difficulty. I climbed and climbed up past the tree line, up above alpine lakes—then when it came time to descend into the fjord below there were 32 hairpin turns on a single one-lane road plus one dark tunnel. I was scared.

But needs demanded I keep going. It was too late to change my mind. I rode down, carefully. When done I celebrated with an ice cream. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always pretty—yet I was so glad to have accomplished what I’d set out to do.


“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”

C.S. Lewis


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

One Day This Will All Go Away

The other day in the car I passed a shuttered piano store. Like so many retail outlets, brick and mortar stores are closing up. Sears. Treasure Island. My favorite tea shop. People order things on-line. The tea I used to buy I have to order from Amazon. Virtually every place—in Chicago a metro area of over 3 million people—doesn’t offer the brand I like.

But how do you order a piano. Drones can’t deliver it. Those people on bikes can’t run it up the steps. My UPS guy already has a bad back. Certain things can’t be plucked off the conveyor belt, packed, and shipped at an Amazon warehouse.

Will pianos become extinct?

In a way they are already a rarity, and the people who play them. And the neighborhood ladies who advertise lessons. All of this will become a thing of the past. We’re too busy with our devices and pressing buy.
Image result for abandoned piano

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ann Marie--a memory


When my daughter was little we were always losing her shoes. Not sure why I say “we.” Maybe because if I wanted her out of the house and to school on time, I had to become involved.

Basically, I’d just look out the window.

We live on the 4th floor of our building and I can see down into the play yard below. That way I might spy her shoes mixed in with the wood chips under the monkey bars or by the splash pool area or on one of the benches. And, always, there would be Ann Marie sleeping on a bench.

Image result for cartoon, sleeping on a park bench
In my building the top three floors are reserved for low-income seniors. Many are only on Social Security. Ann Marie was queen of the house coat—a cross between a robe and an all-over apron. It can be worn over clothes or as it. Women of a certain age sport just a house coat. I’m almost there myself.

She was also afraid to sleep in her own bed. She was convinced someone was out to get her. There was a rumor that her late husband had been part of the Chicago Mafia. I believe she was merely paranoid. Either way, we’d find her asleep in the lobby, senior’s lounge, or outside when the weather was good, laid out on one of the benches.

Grace would run downstairs and outside and pluck her shoes up from under a sleeping Ann Marie without waking her. Eventually Ann Marie would arise and begin vacuuming or wiping things down—tucking used Kleenex into the pocket of her house coat.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Book News: Cloud of Wintesses




--from a reader: When my mom lived in Ohio she made it to the State Final as a Quiz kid. All I could think of when I read your book.

At my book launch I had a diverse crowd. From my contacts in the neighborhood there were a few folks who used to sleep under the bridge in the park, and are now, thankfully, housed. A few days after the launch ----- approached me and said, “I read your book.” I told her it means a lot to me that she bought one (on her limited budget!), and that she’d read it already. “Oh, that’s nothing—I’m half way through reading it a second time.” I really did want to cry. I appreciate so much her reading it once let alone a second time. “You know who I identify with? Hassan, the kid they made fun of, an outsider.”

You see my friend grew up outside of American society. As a Native American she has struggled all her life with identity; how does she fit in this land, this country?

Thank you friend for your kind words and thoughtful reading.

Thank you everyone who came to the Book Launch Party and are connecting with Cloud of Witnesses. I look forward to hearing your story/stories.