Dahl Delights

“A little magic can take you a long way.”

“Don’t gobblefunk around with words.”

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
Roald Dahl

One of the delights of writing my children’s novel has been the great joy of discovering new authors that I absolutely love. For me, one of these treasured scribes has been Roald Dahl. A prolific author, he penned everything from adult mysteries to children’s classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda (See Chocolate Lover). Over the years, 100 million copies of his books have flown off the shelves and they’re available in 50 languages. Roald is widely considered one of the greatest storytellers for children of the twentieth century and there’s even a fabulous museum in his hometown devoted to his memory. I’d love one of those!

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, includes a pithy extract called “Lucky Break” in which our boy Roald describes how he became a writer. It also offers seven tips on the qualities that he thought anyone who wanted to make a living writing fiction needed to have. Here they are:

1. “You should have a lively imagination.”

2. “You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift and you either have it or you don’t.”

3. “You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month.”

4. “You must be a perfectionist. That means you must never be satisfied with what you have written until you have rewritten it again and again, making it as good as you possibly can.” Roald took his own advice: He rewrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory six times and dumped months of work on Matilda and started over again because he felt the story wasn’t working.

5. ‘You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don’t turn up for work, or to tick you off if you start slacking.”

6. “It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humour. This is not essential when writing for grown-ups, but fore children, it’s vital.”

7. “You must have a degree of humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvelous is heading for trouble.”

Sage advice from a master storyteller. Let’ embrace it and all write on!

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“Resilience Boosters”

Whatever life throws at us, boosting our resiliency can help us survive and thrive. In good times and bad, resiliency lets us bounce back from setbacks, cope with stress, and forge ahead with hope and courage. That’s why I was so grateful when my wonderful friend C.J. Lonoff, founder of Speaking Matters (https://www.speakingmatters.org), invited me to “Resilience Boosters,” an online talk by one of her gifted speakers, Tal Ben-Shahar (http://www.talbenshahar.com).

An expert in the science of happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar is co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy, and a widely read author whose books include the New York Times bestseller, Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment. Some of his inspiring advice:

In our lives and work, three powerful factors, or “ABCs” influence us: heart, body, and mind. To build resiliency, create positive change, and meet adversity, all three must be nourished.

Affect: the heart — our emotions, and feelings

  • “Give yourself permission to be human” – to “experience the full range of emotions  fear, anger, love, joy. Let them flow through you. When you reject painful emotions, they intensify.”
  • Create a gratitude journal – it will make you “happier, more generous, healthier. You can always, always find something to be grateful for…. When you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

Behavior: what we do and how our body responds

  • Stay strong – Physical movement relieves stress. When facing pressure, exercise is more important than ever. Look into online videos to keep active and engaged.
  • Nurture relationships – our bonds with family, friends, and others are the #1 predictor of happiness and well-being. While apart physically, make online interactions a daily ritual. Stay connected and involved.

Cognition: our thoughts and mindset

  • Positive distractions – “The media is not a mirror of reality, it is a magnifying glass – it magnifies the negative.” To shield yourself, it’s important to “refocus on what’s working and broaden your perspective.” Pursue healthy distractions: listening to music, watching funny videos, or reading.
  • Find benefits: “Benefit finding is the opposite of fault-finding.” What benefits can you extract from your current situation? It may inspire you to appreciate life more, spendmore time with family and friends, write more, reflect more. All these can help us make the best of what’s happening.

So here’s a simple strategy for feeling happier right now wherever you are: Give yourself permission to be human, express gratitude, exercise, nurture your relationships, expand your world through positive distractions, and find benefits in adversity. And remember: when we take these steps, “because happiness is contagious, we’re also helping others do the same.” Bravo, Tal Ben-Shahar! Let’s stay strong and stay positive as we all write on!

 

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Productivity Boosters

We all sit at our desks way too much and too long. Little wonder, then, that our productivity often flags at different points during the day. Taking breaks can be very helpful: they help us rest our tired eyes, stretch tight muscles, bring oxygen to our brain, and recharge mentally. But what counts as a true break?

Rehydrate yourself: First, Drink a full glass of water. Then, splash some water on your face – warm, if you want to relax, cold if you want to feel re-energized.

Try stretching:

1) Plant your feet firmly on the ground, lift your arms and look at your palms.
2) Stretch your spine for 30-60 seconds, gradually increasing pressure, as if
you were trying to touch the ceiling with your fingers
3) Relax, lower your arms and feel the energy moving up your spine.

Do some deep breathing: Stand up and walk away from your desk. Find a quiet place, where you can sit down, close your eyes, smile to yourself and take 10 deep breaths. Imagine tension and stress leaving your body as you breathe out and feel peacefulness, positive Energy, and relaxation filling your mind as you breath in.

Use a guided meditation: There are plenty of 10-15 minute meditations that allow you to tap your creativity and let go of muscles tension. Just close your eyes and let peace
and relaxation flow through you.

Step outside: Catching some sunshine and absorbing a dose of Vitamin D can give you a quick boost of energy, refreshing both mind and body. Try to be in the moment: feel the sun on your skin, the breeze on your face. Even one quick trip around park will help.

Boogie for a bit: Music is a great mood changer, especially if you allow yourself to get up and move with it. Just a few minutes of humming and dancing can put a smile on your face and loosen up both your body and your brain.

Take a brain Break: This is a great idea if you need a quick distraction from the problem at hand to get your creative juices flowing:

* Take your left hand and have your fingers in and your thumb up.
* Then take your right hand and put all the fingers in except for the pinkie. in other
words, your left thumb is up and right pinkie out.
* Now switch the roles of your hands. And now try doing it faster.

OK, now that we’re energized, let’s get back to work and write on!

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Life Lessons

As we move toward some kind of new normal, it’s comforting to know that there are sources we can turn to for energy and support. In these trying times, for me, listening to my wonderful friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s Success Hotline (973.743.4690) has been a huge help. Do yourself a favor and call today: It’s three minutes of free, energizing motivation! Just this weekend, he shared “12 Rules for Being Human:”

1. You will receive a body. You make like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Every day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error and experimentation. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately work.

4.  A lesson is repeated until learned. It will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. Once you do, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Lessons do not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. There is no better “there” than “here.”  When a “there” has become a “here,” you will simply find another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate another something about another person unless it reflects something you either love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours. It’s in your hands.

9.  Life is exactly what you think it is. You create a life that matches your beliefs and expectations.

10. The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

11. You will forget all this.

12. You can remember it whenever you want.

“There are no mistakes, only lessons.” “You have all the tools and resources you need.” “The answers to life’s questions lie in side you.” Encouraging, isn’t it, to reflect on these possibilities right now? Wisdom to ponder and apply as we all write on!

*  Once again, Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690

 

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Something Wonderful

Peace

Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It will not ebb like the sea.

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pol of gold
When sunset burns and dies —
You are my deepening skies;
Give me your stars to hold.

— Sara Teasdale

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“Mighty Blaze”

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So many things have come to a standstill – it seems sometimes as if life itself is on hold. But crisis ignites ingenuity! When my dear friend and gifted writer Nancy told me about an initiative called “A Mighty Blaze” to help writers whose book launches are on hold, it heartened me tremendously. It was started by two novelists, Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum, whose book appearances were cancelled due to the health crisis.

Anyone can take part in conversations about new books on A Mighty Blaze via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about new releases. Authors whose books have been traditionally published for adult readers and whose book tours have been canceled can also receive a planned free shout out. On Tuesdays–when most new books are released — A Mighty Blaze spotlights individual authors through elevator pitches, interviews and discussions, and group discussions along with visuals like author photos and book covers.

The whole idea quickly caught fire and was featured in a Publishers Weekly (PW) story. As the story noted, since A Mighty Blaze was launched on social media in mid-March, it has attracted more than 1,000 followers on Facebook. Authors like Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Dani Shapiro, and Anne Lamott are all helping out by promoting others. The venture also has 28 partners, including the Authors Guild.

From the PW interview: “’We’re just two writer girls trying to help our friends,” Blum said, explaining that she sympathized with writers who had spent “three, five, eight years” writing their books, and were “devastated” that they now were being denied the opportunity to “meet their readers.’”

“’Jenna came up with this line which I really love,’” Leavitt added, “’We’re two technophobe female novelists in yoga pants trying to save authors from canceled tours and indie bookstores from being shuttered and we’re doing it every Tuesday.’”

“Literary organizations and publishers, even indie bookstores, can participate by promoting A Mighty Blaze on their own social media platforms. And on April 25, A Mighty Blaze will host the Newburyport (Mass.) Literary Festival on social media with live author interviews and virtual cocktail parties.

“A Mighty Blaze intends to further involve indie bookstores by posting bookstore logos on A Mighty Blaze’s social media platforms, conducting fundraising campaigns, and branding Wednesdays as “Indie Bookstore Wednesdays” and spotlighting a different indie each week. Blum is also contemplating adding “Favorite Line Fridays” and hosting virtual cocktail parties on Friday evenings.

“’It’s so good to be connected with other authors and to feel you’re doing good,’” Blum said. “It’s like we’re holding each other’s hands,” Leavitt added, “’There’s such s sense of community; it’s exhilarating. People are sequestered but they still need books.'”

Leavitt and Blum are thinking about sustaining A Mighty Blaze on an ongoing basis as way to help their fellow authors. A creative idea, born in the midst of crisis. To find out more, go to: https://www.facebook.com/amightyblaze/ Write on!

 

 

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Hawthorne Helps

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“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Danger or misfortune and opportunity often make strange but powerful bedfellows, don’t they? When Nathaniel Hawthorne was fired from his comfortable government job in the custom house where he’d been working, he went home and despondently told his wife. She listened to his tale of woe, then set a bottle of ink and a pen on the table, lit a fire, put her arms around him and said, “Now you will be able to write your novel.” So Hawthorne sat down and wrote The Scarlet Letter.

Now that was writing dangerously! A pioneering classic, The Scarlet Letter is still read and admired for its style, sense of atmosphere, and journey into the human heart.

We’ve all been in Nathaniel’s shoes to one degree or another — caught in a situation in our writing that seems difficult or even hopeless, but which contains an opportunity for something golden to happen. To buoy ourselves up today, let’s consider a few of these turnarounds:

We start writing a story and it peters out and seems to be going nowhere. We put it away for a while and a month or two later, an idea flashes through our head that energizes our words and gives them new life, rekindles our excitement and sense of purpose.

We are feeling that a character we’re writing about doesn’t seem lively or sympathetic enough. In desperation, we conjure up a sidekick and suddenly both our characters gain a heart and soul.

Our submission strategy is fizzling. Our novel or story has been rejected and we’re feeling lousy about it. We nurse our wounds for a day or two, but something in us refuses to quit. We believe in the value of what we’re writing. So we use the rejections as fuel. We go back to the drawing board and suddenly everything cracks open. We come up with changes that make our tale stronger, truer, deeper.

Parting words from my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert:* ” Inside every problem is a possibility. The possibilities are staring you right in the face. In every problem, there’s a possibility. In every problem, there’s an opportunity.”

Have a problem? You have just entered “The Land of Possibilities” — write on!

* Be sure to check out Dr. Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline: 973.743.4690.

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