Category Archives: Books

Author

At my table at the MN Authors Book Fair

I do love to read and although I’m not keeping up in the reviewing department I have been catching up on the stack of books sitting beside my chair.  As an author I have a great appreciation for readers.  I am delighted when people are interested in my books.  As a reader I am not a good friend to authors.

Perhaps it’s the introvert in me that makes me resistant to reaching out to the authors I admire.  I am well over the shyness I had as a child.  I’ve worked with the public.  I can talk to anyone if I have to.  I’m just not inclined to reach out first, even with my good friends.

I had the opportunity this weekend to be an author in public.  My writer’s group hosted a book fair.  I went and had a good time.  One of the other women in the group offered to share a table with me.  That made stepping away for a little break a lot easier.  It also encouraged me to have some conversation.  In that context, talking to other authors is interesting and easy.

I did a reading which was well attended.  I got a lot of questions both curious and contentious.  I find it amusing when people think I’m against them and try to challenge me.  I’ve come to a place in my life where I can stand pretty comfortably in my truth and not get defensive.  I have a calling.  I write from a point of view.  If you need me to have further credentials then I’m not your gal.

Some of the most delightful people I talked to were clearly extraverts.  I love getting caught up in that kind of energy and carried along for a short bit.  One of the women I spoke with writes about and advocates for women recovering from the sex trafficking industry.  I have no exposure or experience outside of the news so I was truly interested in hearing her story.

At the table next to us was an author who writes mysteries.  That’s not a genre I’m particularly attracted to as a reader.  It was fun to eavesdrop on her conversations as she sold her books and to talk to her as well.  I am intrigued and might have to check out her series.

There was a great variety of styles, genre’s, topics represented at the fair.  I managed to leave without buying a book, but it was really hard.  I have a few on my list for later, once I get to the bottom of my reading pile.

Culling

Radishes can only be sprouts this close together

Radishes can only be sprouts this close together

One of the aspects of spring, easy for urbanites to ignore, is the culling.  The birthing season for many farm animals means deciding which of the newborns will live, which will be sold, which will be food for the family.   With gardening, the sprouts need to be thinned, the weeds need to be pulled, bushes are pruned and flowers are picked or left to bloom and eventually seed.

Part of the process of dealing with my kitchen cupboards falling off the walls is preparing to have my house torn apart for months.  This isn’t just a kitchen project.  It also involves the bathroom, the basement, the driveway, and some of the yard.  I have water issues, mold issues and years of neglect.

Mold everywhere and bookcases falling apart

Mold everywhere and bookcases falling apart

My basement has been the land of denial for more years than I can count.  I spend as little time as possible down there (because I have massive allergic reactions if I stay).   There’s a lot of plain trash.  Paper and fabric and wood that has been ruined by water and eaten by mold.  I haven’t been able to deal with it because I can’t:

  1. touch it (without breaking out and/or having an asthma attack)
  2. haul it up the stairs
  3. stand to be there long enough to see what is salvageable

So, in fits and starts, I have someone (equipped with gloves and a respirator) doing steps 1 and 2 for me.  Step 3 is a little more difficult.  There is a lot that I never have to see.  It’s undeniably trash.  It walks out my door in a bag.  I may sigh at a loss, but mostly it’s good riddance.

But there is plenty down there where the distinction is not so clear.  Mostly that would be books.  The books in bookcases are probably a little (or a lot) moldy.  The bookcases themselves are falling apart.  But the books look okay.  The books are my references, my treasures, my comfort.  They’re books!

"To sort" (and more to come!)

“To sort” (and more to come!)

If I’m a hoarder, it’s about books.  There is always money for food, and books.  There is always room for food, and books.  There can not be enough bookcases.  As soon as I get a new one, it’s full.  I’m a writer, which means I’m a reader.  My basement is full of books.

They come up the stairs box by box.  They are no longer in any order, packed more for viability than placement.   I have to sort, and cull.   Do I really need 3 large boxes of children’s picture books?  My children are 23 and 27 and I have no grandchildren on the way.  How many herbology books do I need?  When do the mythology references just become an indulgence?

There are memories in those books.  Some of them survived the house fire when I was a teenager.  I open them and smell the smoke, but they also hold the memories of childhood escapes.  I spent late nights under the covers with a flashlight, long afternoons in hammocks, curled up on the limbs of a tree with these books.

“Declutter” is the catch word of the day.  But this is not clutter.  The books without places went out in black trash bags, damp and falling apart.  These are the ones that had places on shelves that will no longer support them.  These are the curated books that survived multiple moves and life stages.  This is culling, and it’s necessary, and it’s hard.

Paganicon Weekend

Still bad at selfless. Trying to find the next workshop

Still bad at the selfie. Trying to find the next workshop

It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and it may take me a bit to come back into my regular routine.   Paganicon happened, which was fun and exciting. I did a presentation on Friday.   It was well attended and I got some very positive feedback.   I have to think it went well.

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

Ran into Sandy in the vendor room. I knew her from the Priestess Show on Blog talk Radio. We finally got to meet in person! (she took this one)

I spent plenty of time socializing on Friday.  This is a local convention, but it’s getting some buzz on the National scale.  Some of the guests and folks coming in from out-of-town are good friends.  It’s always nice to have the opportunity to touch base in person with those long distance relationships.

Saturday was our political district convention.  Both Orion and I were delegates.   This year Orion is excited about politics and I’m feeling fit enough to make it possible for him to participate at this level.  We struggle with accessibility in these venues.  On caucus night it was the crowds.  For the district convention it was the convention set up itself.

I don't have photos from the political convention but here's Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends Crystal Blanton.

I don’t have photos from the political convention but here’s Orion at dinner with one of our long distance friends (and also from the Priestess Show) Crystal Blanton.

The building this district historically uses for its convention is technically ADA accessible.   There is a ramp and an elevator.  There are handicapped stalls in the bathrooms.   However the signage is horrible.

To make matters worse the convention was in the auditorium.   You may know most auditorium seating has a small designated area to accommodate wheelchairs.  Depending on the auditorium they may or may not have seating near them for companions.  But at a political convention the rules require that delegates sit in their precincts – not in the special seats on the other side of the room.

We found a spot in a little used aisle.   Little used because the door to that aisle was locked the entire day.  Every time we left we had to get someone to go around and let us back in.   The lighting was horrible.  I had eye fatigue and a burgeoning headache from trying to read the amendments.  Orion is legally blind.  He can read, but he needs good lighting.   I drained my cell phone battery using the flashlight.

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I've had my coffee yet!

I begged someone to take this for me. Not sure I’ve had my coffee yet!

In spite of being worn out we swung by Paganicon after the political convention.   It gave Orion a chance to visit with some of his friends.  He picked up a beautiful drum that he’s enjoying.   Orion has an inherent sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.

Sunday morning I was back at Paganicon to do a book signing.  It went pretty well for me after one of the organizers kindly found me a decent cup of coffee to get me through.  I spent the afternoon actually attending the convention, going to workshops and participating in rituals.

It was a good weekend.  I couldn’t have done so much, and at that pace, 3 years ago.   I am so grateful to be able to do these kinds of things again, and to be able to do them with Orion in tow.

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues!

Great panel on social justice and systemic issues (like accessibility)!

 

I was talking about my bariatric surgery and the outcomes with some folks I hadn’t seen for awhile.  These are people who have been in that internal debate about their own weight issues.  I said that I think part of my success is because I’m not focused on the weight or the numbers as much as I’m focused on the things I can do.

I can get down on the floor and up again.  I can go up and down the stairs.  I can walk from one end of the convention to the other and not sit down.  I can stand for my entire presentation and still manage to pack my stuff up when I’m done.  Gratitude keeps me on track.  Excitement about what I can do keeps me pushing to do more.

 

Adjusting

20160212_113753So I missed last week’s blog because I was still in California – giving my presentation.  I had a great trip.  I talked to some fabulous people.  I learned some things and was inspired.  I also hope I taught some things and was inspirational.

I think I’m pretty much back in Central Time, but even that’s challenging.  My darling daughter wrenched her ankle in a bad fall coming home from work this weekend.  2am in Urgent Care doesn’t help me adjust.  But the sun has been shining, the days have been warm.  (In Minnesota if the snow is melting it’s warm – even at 39 degrees.)

Looking at traveling as part of a career I’m going to have to find a way to do the body/time adjustment thing a little more gracefully.  At least I was kind to myself with scheduling.  Aside from the unexpected (there was a trip to the Apple Genius Bar as well) I haven’t had any “extras” on the calendar.  That’s about to change!20160214_103212

One of the things I got to do at Pantheacon was Tarot readings.  When I do readings I always get good feedback from the clients.  This was no exception.  But I also had some down time with the cards, so I asked a question for myself about preparing for my presentation.  That was a little frustrating.  I was committed to being “on my game”.  I wanted to be a professional level presenter.  I’m invested in preparing to do my best.  The cards kept saying, “Give it up.  This is something you can’t prepare for.”

My time slot was unfortunate.  I presented early in the morning on the last day of the convention.  Most people are packing to check out or catching early flights.  The audience I was targeting are, as a rule, worn out by this point.  I had no idea what kind of crowd to expect and the cards were not helping.

However unhelpful, they were correct.  I had a small enough group that sitting down and having a discussion, a personal conversation, was much more appropriate than a presentation.  In that kind of setting my goal is always to address the specific needs of those present.  It’s not something you can prepare for.  You just have to know the material inside and out.  I do and I thought the workshop went really well.20160214_174214

I didn’t take a lot of photos.  I did get a lovely sashimi dinner one evening.  My roommate (who I met when I arrived) was fabulous and we had a pleasant evening together over dinner as well.  I sat in on conversations about accessibility for People of Color and for the Gender fluid community.  I actually went to one of the ritual presentations (something I’ve not had the energy for in previous years) and enjoyed myself.  I spent some time with old friends and made some new ones.

I still have to finish unpacking.  I need to sort through all the cards I picked up and find new contacts on Facebook.  I need to remember to check my email and gather all my receipts.  It’s less than a month until the next one.  At least I won’t have to change time zones!

Making Memories

"Christmas" this weekend with my parents

“Christmas” this weekend with my parents

My parents are 80 years old.  My Mom had her birthday last month and my Dad is this spring.  It is becoming more and more apparent I won’t have them around forever and so the time I spend with them becomes precious.

My blogging buddy Andra Watkins speaks about the importance of making memories.   She walked the Natchez Trace with her Dad, and then wrote a book about her experience:  Not Without My Father.  She’s got a twitter feed at #makeamemory where people share their stories."Christmas" with my parents

When we asked my Mom what she wanted for her 80th birthday she said she wanted to go out with just her girls.  This isn’t as simple as it sounds.  There are schedules to shuffle, kids to arrange for, and some history of unpleasantness between us.    But it’s what she wanted, so I got on the phone.

We kept it a secret until Mom’s actual birthday.  Then my middle sister (the one who lives closest) gave her a card with an “invitation” inside.  Lunch with your daughters, January 2nd.  She was SO excited!  We didn’t “do Christmas” until just this past weekend so it was nice for her to have something to carry her through the actual holiday.

Even on the day we had a few minor scheduling issues.  I volunteered to pick up my little sister and forgot she’s outside of the GPS maps so we were a little late arriving.   My middle sister was babysitting and needed to drop off her Grandson “on the way”.   She was driving Mom, who also wanted to stop and pick up a few groceries.

Drinks first, then a LOT of food!

Drinks first, then a LOT of food!

In the end we all made it to lunch.  The waitress snapped a photo to prove it.  It was a pleasant leisurely afternoon.   We sat and ate and chit-chatted about nothing important.  We kept it all light and friendly.

My Mom was thrilled.  She still talks about how wonderful it was for us to do that for her.  She says finally, for the first time in her life, she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday.  We made her a memory.

For me, it’s not the lunch that’s the memory.  It’s being able to make my Mother so happy, with such a simple thing.  Aging is hard for her.  She struggles to continue to be relevant, to be heard, to participate and she does better than she thinks.  But this day, for her birthday lunch, she could be the center of attention, “the Mom”, and not have to work at all.

Priceless

Book News

The latest Anthology has been released!

Pagan Leadership AnthologyThe Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood published by Immanion Press.

This book is filled with essays written by authors from the Pagan community.  Many of them I know and respect both as writers and leaders.

This may seem like a “niche” market book, but I think it has a lot to offer outside the Pagan community as well.

The leadership models in Paganism tend to be more collaborative than hierarchical.  The community as a whole is already “outside the norm” and so its members are practiced at stepping away from systems they don’t like.  We often tease that leading Pagans is like herding cats!

We demand a great deal from our leadership and vote with our feet.  Sure there is hierarchy and there are occasionally cults of personality.  Sometimes personal issues and interpersonal dynamics interfere with the effectiveness of a leader in a larger group.  But these kinds of issues also play out in corporate and other community settings.

I am proud to be a contributor to this anthology.  Although the examples are clearly Pagan, the principles are applicable in any leadership situation.

 

The Party’s Over

The party is over

The party is over

The holidays are over, at least for most of us, and it’s time to get back to the daily grind.  I suppose those New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to help with that.  All those good intentions with the opportunity to put them into play.   I don’t bother with them anymore.  They seem to just lead to great disappointment when, by February, I’ve forgotten them completely.

There are still leftovers in the fridge.  The last of the sweets are around the house.  The decorations get packed up this coming weekend.  It’s cold, and dark, and a little bit sad to see all the sparkle go away.  Resolutions don’t do it for me, but this is the time of year when I lean heavily on Daily

Decorations need to come down

Decorations need to come down

Practice.

Daily Practice can mean a lot of things.  A diet requires daily practice, as does an exercise program (or physical therapy).  Most spiritual systems encourage some sort of daily practice.  Writing, learning a new language, honing a skill all good candidates for daily practice.  And I’ve done them all, at least for a while.

When it’s dark, and a little depressing I use daily practice to “prime the pump”.   I find some very small thing that’s easy to do, even if I have to quick do it before I go to bed because I’ve forgotten or put it off all day.  Then I just commit to doing it.

Lately my daily practice has been making the bed.  This is not a hardship.  I have a duvet (and right now an extra blanket/bedspread).  There are no hospital corners involved.  All it takes is a quick tidy.  I can do it in less than a minute.  There is no excuse not to make my bed.  I just never did it before.

Thank you to those who followed and prayed on the Wounded Knee Anniversary!  Moving Forward in a Sacred Way certainly warrants Daily Practice!

Thank you to those who followed and prayed on the Wounded Knee Anniversary! Moving Forward in a Sacred Way certainly warrants Daily Practice!

This one small thing doesn’t seem like a spiritual practice.  It doesn’t look like much of anything, but it makes a huge difference in my day.  Every time I walk into my room and see my bed made it makes me smile.  It makes me feel special, like I care about myself.  It makes me want to be better at all the other things that need doing.

It does exactly what I’m looking for from Daily Practice at this time of year.  It gets me started on the right foot.  It sets me up for a productive day.  It primes the pump.

Critical Grumpy-pants

It’s Monday.  I wrote a blog.  I don’t like it. (Critical grumpy-pants!)  It’s not like I didn’t have a good week!  We volunteered at Gilda’s Golf benefit.  We went to my friend Karen Lund’s book launch party at the Como Park Conservatory and Japanese Gardens.  We saw Inside Out at the Cinema Grill.  I performed 3 rituals.   Maybe I’m just tired.  Here are some photos.

 

I helped make the prize board

I helped make the prize board

Great venue

Great venue

We greeted folks as they came in for the banquet

We greeted folks as they came in for the banquet

I've always loved this beautiful old building

I’ve always loved this beautiful old building

20150811_194114(0)

The Japanese Gardens are delightful

The Japanese Gardens are delightful

You have to have a reservation for the teahouse, but Orion and I did a selfie at the gate

You have to have a reservation for the teahouse, but Orion and I did a selfie at the gate

The lilies were blooming

The lilies were blooming

Orion couldn't go on ALL of the path, but he could get to all the good spots

Orion couldn’t go on ALL of the path, but he could get to all the good spots

 

Privilege

The conversation about privilege is difficult, because it’s easy to get defensive right off the bat.  The thing is that most of us have experienced privilege in some form or other over the course of our lives.  It’s hard to see that when we’re feeling downtrodden, but it’s true.  Likewise many of us have experienced some form of discrimination based on sex, or height, or handed-ness and feel that gives us some insight into systemic racism.  Having a discussion about issues of race can’t even begin until first privilege is understood.

You pay a premium price for a left-handed can opener.

You pay a premium price for a left-handed can opener.

Let’s start with the notion of systemic privilege and discrimination.  There is systemic handedness bias in our culture.  Left handed people live inherently more dangerous lives simply because the world is designed for their non-dominant hand.  But generally handedness isn’t going to get you put in prison.  It isn’t cause for shop owners to eye you suspiciously.  It isn’t going to prevent someone from renting you an apartment and in most cases it won’t cost you a job or an education.  Right handed people are privileged, the world is designed for us.

There are plenty of statics out there that back up an argument for systemic discrimination against women.  (Google gender discrimination if you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole.)  Women continue to make less in the workforce.  We continue to be less upwardly mobile with families.  When the same essay is graded by teachers with a male name or a female name the male name paper scores on the average significantly higher.  When #allwomen first came out documented how prevalent street harassment is.  It became clear that #allwomen have experienced being dismissed in a group, their ideas lauded when reintroduced by a man.  There’s a universal uphill climb.

The counter argument is that there is privilege that goes with being a woman as well.  The problem is that those cultural privileges are not as universal as the discrimination.  Yes, some women can bat their eyes and get out of a speeding ticket.  Yes, some women always have doors opened for them (I’d give that up for equal pay – it’s not really an equivalent argument.)  And yes, in some cases being a woman means you can hit a guy and he won’t hit back. (Domestic abuse statistics will give some sense of how NOT universal that “privilege” really is.)  But I would bet that most women have tried to lean on those alleged privileges to avoid something, or get something they wanted.  That doesn’t make this a good counter argument.

There are too many women supporting the men in their lives to argue that being a woman means you can expect the man to pay your way.  There are too many women in the workforce by necessity to argue that being a woman means you get to choose to work or stay home.  There may be privilege, but the woman privilege may not even be the one that applies.  It may be privilege by education.  It may be privilege by “pretty” (being blessed with good genes).  It may be age.  It may be socio-economic status that gives any given woman her privilege.

Don't park here if you don't really NEED to.  (Running late isn't a real need)

Don’t park here if you don’t really NEED to. (Running late isn’t a real need)

The argument/counter-argument trap comes up a lot in discussions about privilege.  It takes a willingness to actually parse out value to realize how silly this argument can become.  For instance, my son who has never walked and uses a wheelchair and an aid everywhere gets “special parking privileges”.   What people who make that argument don’t understand is how impossible it is to get in and out of the car without the extra space.  What people who make that argument don’t understand is how much energy goes into adaptive mobility.  Legs are made for walking, arms aren’t.  Shoulders of wheelchair uses wear out much faster and more regularly than knees in walkers.

Most of the people I know with handicapped stickers are grateful for the days (few and far between though they may be) when they feel good enough NOT to park in those “special” spots.   The handicapped parking spots aren’t guaranteed.  I’ve driven around the parking lot, or decided not to shop on more than one occasion because the spots were full up.  All they do is give an underprivileged population a fighting chance to be able to participate in the daily economy.

That’s actually the same argument for title IX to promote women’s athletics.  It’s the same argument for affirmative action.   It’s not a guarantee.  You still have to fight for it, and earn the place.  It just gives an underprivileged population a chance.  That’s why it’s such an insult to assume that a minority in college or at a workplace got the position because of affirmative action.  Remember the comment about grading papers?  The same thing applies to resumes.  Without affirmative action, with equal qualifications the female or ethnic name doesn’t get the interview as often as the “white guy”.  In fact, even with better qualifications employers will often go with a lesser resume that doesn’t look “ethnic”.  (National Bureau of Economic Research paper)

Crystal Blanton is a social worker in Oakland CA.  Tyler Ellwood is my publisher at Immanion Press.

Crystal Blanton is a social worker in Oakland CA. Tyler Ellwood is my publisher at Immanion Press.

In order to better understand systemic racism it is important to actually listen to the experiences of people of color.  I am proud to be a contributing author in the new anthology Bringing Race to the Table.  This anthology is focused in the Pagan community, but the points it makes are universal.  In the first section People of Color describe both overt and covert racism in our community.  The second section talks about the historical and mythological context of racism.  The third section talks about being an ally and shares ideas about awareness and support.   I’m pleased and honored to be able to participate in this ongoing dialog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifting

An extra blog!  Reposting because I found a wonderful site about gifts to give your favorite author (and ME!) for the holidays.  Since Yule is this weekend – Enjoy that longest night! – I figured I’d better get this out there just in case you’d forgotten to add me to your gift list.  🙂

Here’s the link to the original

Along with the post – and my commentary

Decorated-Christmas-gifts-2

1. Mention their name/book when someone asks “What are you reading?”   (Or anytime you talk with someone about Spirituality!)

2. Add their book(s) to Goodreads groups and lists.  (Yes please)

3. Buy and give their books as gifts to people on your Christmas list.  (What a great idea!  I have some if you need them – I’d even sign them for you.)

4. Request your local library get their books.  (Hey!  I have friends who are librarians.  They have limited budgets.  Books that are requested get higher priority.)

5. If children/youth books, tell your child’s teacher/librarian/PTA about the books.  (Well,  I think maybe your churches, circles, women’s groups, specialty bookstores, and the folks in all those classes you’ve been taking.)

6. Suggest the author/book for your book group. (There’s plenty in my books to talk about!)

7. Follow author on Twitter and retweet.  (Maybe GET me on Twitter – but the same is true with Facebook or linked-in and my blog.  The more you “like”, comment, and especially share the more people see it.)

8. Like their author Facebook page and comment occasionally so author knows someone is out there.  (I do have an author page on Facebook Lisa Spiral)

9. Write an email to author.  (I always love to hear from folks about what they got out of my books or how they are using them.)

10. Leave a review on Amazon or other site of your choice.  (Even better!  Amazon, Goodreads, or even those small newsletters that bookstores and religious communities put out.  Hey – The Edge occasionally prints book reviews too.)

Seriously, these things mean a lot. Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   (AND A JOYOUS YULE FROM ME!)

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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