A PANDEMIC VIEW

I don’t think anyone would disagree that we’re going through a challenging and frightening time – pandemic, global warming, massive fires, catastrophic floods, earthquakes …. Add to these our private crises, especially losing loved ones to Covid.

Not much reason to be happy these days or even optimistic. Yet, what’s the alternative? Waste time being constantly morose ? Be paralyzed by fear? Throw in whatever towel we have left?

My middle name isn’t Pollyanna, but I guess I’m a stubborn believer in “where there’s life….” On the other hand, I’m painfully aware of what the pandemic has cost me in unrecoverable time with my grandchildren, jettisoned travel plans, and lost opportunities to publicize my books since social distancing rules out in-person author talks. Yet from another view, what’s so bad about having uninterrupted time for the work we love without compulsory time-consuming appointments? I’m not talking solely about writers. How many people forced to do their jobs at home have discovered new and fulfilling ways to work, as well as hours saved from traveling? (And how many are reluctant to return to “normal” life in an office!)

In her novel “The Weight of Ink,” Rachel Kadish graphically describes life during the Bubonic Plague in 16th century London. It was almost impossible for families and friends to find out who was still alive, since the only means of communication was by word of mouth and it was dangerous to venture out. The isolation made a horrifying situation far worse. Imagine how they would have felt if they’d had our technical marvels!

So instead of pounding the wall in frustration, I’m folding my hands in gratitude for such connections as phones and Zoom. It’s even brought me new friends. True we haven’t met in person (yet), but friendship blooms surprisingly in technological soil. I’ve also found healthy distraction in the abundant on-line courses that are available and usually free.

Ironically my long-distance relationships feel closer because there’s a sense of our being in this together. I’m more patient with quirks that used to seem important and I feel increasing tenderness not only towards my family, but my friends, students, neighbors. If we have to endure this plague, let’s at least find value in being in it together.

I’m reminded of when my grandson was a wily seven-year-old, trying to bargain his way out of a task he didn’t like. Not even knowing what the word meant he asked, “What’s my option?”

That’s a good question. Let’s opt for good answers.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com;  WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY – Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

TRIUMPH, TWO-SIDED

“What I would give to win a gold medal,” a friend said as she watched the triumphant winners at the Olympics.

But what would she give? Triumphs invariably have a price tag. Sure, it would be thrilling to be Simone Biles in her high-flying days. But for every medalist, before those podium moments there are years of relentless, often painful, practice day after day, while childhood slips away.  As Biles poignantly revealed, the wear and tear isn’t only on muscles, but on fragile psyches. Though her story is one of the more dramatic, it isn’t unique. What’s the psychological burden on an Olympic hopeful whose years of training die in a second, with just one misstep? Years ago I cringed in empathic pain as a young skater who was performing perfect axles, slipped and fell – her lifelong dream crashing down with her.

Of course it isn’t solely athletes who trade their lives for creative success. I can’t count the times someone has told me it must be “wonderful” to be a writer. Well, yes – but not always. It’s incomparable when what you’re struggling to express finally breathes on the pages. But what about all the desperate hours when your muse is MIA?

Famed author Margaret Atwood  ruefully recalls the time she was halfway through the manuscript of her new book when she had to face the fact that it had gone in the wrong direction. “For a writer that’s Tylenol time,” she says. (Often the recourse is more harmful than Tylenol.)

I have a friend who’s been working on her novel for years, with nothing but her talent and faith in her writing to sustain her. So many of us sacrifice ‘normal” times with family and friends in exchange for lonely hours of work that has no guarantee of success. Even if you are pleased with your book – or opera or symphony or painting – reviewers might not be. Beethoven not only had to cope with increasing  deafness, but turn a metaphorical deaf ear to critics who labeled his Second Symphony a “wounded dragon.”  Puccini reputedly never  got over the initial withering response to “Madama Butterfly.” It takes immeasurable courage and faith to pick yourself up and go on.

Even if your challenge is as seemingly simple as learning to knit a complicated pattern, or cook a gourmet dish, or play a musical instrument, or master a technology like zoom – or whatever you attempt – there will be many times when you question whether it’s worth the effort. I found a sage answer in the words of author and artist Morgan Harper Nichols : “Fall in love with the masterpiece and also the paint on the floor.”  Of course, Nichols didn’t mean to literally love cleaning up the messy floor, but the need to embrace the loneliness and frustration that might – or might never – lead to victory.

It’s for each of us to decide whether the price of success is too steep – or a bargain.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com,  TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

NECESSARY INGREDIENTS

My recent blog about rejections drew so many responses I realize that being rejected is a common and demoralizing trauma. For those who didn’t see the blog, I wrote about being in a seemingly unending slump, where the stories I submitted to editors were reaping a monotonous chorus of “No.” It helped my morale to vent about how normal this is for writers and how many famous authors have suffered countless rejections.

But life is ironic. Less than an hour after I’d posted my rejections blog, I had an acceptance! The seemingly unending drought had ended – at least for the time being.

I’m writing this sequel for several reasons. One, obviously, is to encourage all of you not to give up whatever it is you’re reaching for. If you hold on long enough, the weather might change. However, my second purpose  is to point out that  persistence isn’t the total answer. Very often what’s called for is flexibility.

So let me take you on a journey about my oft-rejected piece. It tells the true story of one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had. My husband had died three years earlier. I had promised him that I’d make the trip to Italy we had expected to have together. I set out with enormous trepidation since I’d never traveled anywhere alone and it would be my first time in Italy. In some crazy show of bravado  I arranged to go  totally on my own, not even as part of a tour group. By a lucky (?) coincidence a friend was going to Italy at the same time with his girlfriend and he invited me to join them. Since their itinerary was different from my plans, this meant missing Florence. But I figured companionship was worth everything.

Or was it? The story I later wrote about this trip revolved around the choice I had to make when, after the first few days,  I realized that for a variety of reasons this was no longer my trip. It was theirs. The decision about whether to cling to them or go alone to a strange city where I didn’t know a soul was agonizing.

I wrote about this as a short story – and it was turned down 29 times. For a few years it languished in my files, until I decided that sometimes you have to be willing to try a new approach.  Since my story was true, why not forget the fiction category and submit it as what’s termed “Creative Nonfiction”? (As opposed to Uncreative…?) Again, it was turned down – several times.

It then occurred to me that I could look further afield. Acceptance finally came from a British publication. This highlights another way of not giving up. Sometimes a rejected story finds a home overseas or in hospitable Canada.

What we all need is skin that isn’t too thin, the strength to keep persisting, and the willingness to approach any problem from a totally different angle. This isn’t just true for writing of course. Persistence and flexibility are necessary ingredients for job-hunting, love affairs, troubled friendships, attempts to communicate with your teenager, ad infinitum. But that’s for another blog,

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com

BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

 

NOTES FROM A REJECTIONIST

My e-mails are very busy these days, but not for a desirable reason. I’m getting an unending stream of rejections from agents and editors. The manuscript of my new novel, alone, has so many dismissals I’ve tossed it into a desk drawer. And I don’t want to count how many times my stories have been turned down by magazine editors. In the past I could surf rejections, confident positIve responses were somewhere on the horizon. But now the steady chorus of “No,” has worn on me. The problem with rejections of your work is that they can make you feel as if you’re a total failure.

I’m aware this is standard fare for writers. It’s some comfort to learn that Stephen King was rejected 30 times, not for some youthful failure , but for “Carrie “– the book that launched his career! Joseph Heller was in a “Catch-22” with exactly 22 rejections for the book whose title has become a byword. Then there’s “Chicken Soup for the Soul “ – 144 rejections. Author Jack Canfield’s recipe is to “reject rejection and just say, ‘Next’”!

There are scores of other examples. So I tell myself I’m in good company. It’s just that it’s a company I don’t enjoy being with. In a masochistic mood, I looked up synonyms for rejected. Unfortunately, what leaped out at me was one of my own traumas: for rejected also means “abandoned.”
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Googling the Internet for a more promising word I discovered rejectionist. That doesn’t mean a callous editor, but “one who objects.” I will make that my secret self! Now when a manuscript gets the usual “doesn’t fit our needs,” I’ll object with a lofty rejectionist reply: “Your response doesn’t fit my needs.”

Of course, I won’t actually deliver that message– but it may give me strength to keep sending out my stories. Does this never-give-up attitude really help? One answer comes from the author of the aptly titled – “The Help.” Kathryn Stockett kept trying through 60 rejections. “What if I had given up at sixty?” she asks. For it was her 61st attempt that succeeded in attracting an agent.

We might also decide to take charge and self-publish our work, as even Proust did when he’d had enough of rejection. A current author, Lisa Genoiva, endured 100 rejections of her manuscript. She finally gave in and self-published. Then in a movie-style ending,that version was picked up and reprinted by Galley Books (subsidiary of Simon and Shuster). What was this fortunate book? “Still Alice”! As we know, it had a movie-style scenario, for real, as a profitable film..

So I’m taking out my manuscrirpt and submitting (terrible word) to agents again. There’s no guarantee that my book will be published, but it sure won’t if it’s kept in a drawer!

P.S. You don’t have to be a writer to find that persistence can pay off. Don’t give up trying to make contact with your adolescent, for instance! Keep demanding a raise from that elusive boss, or insisting on equal treatment with men, or any other effort that will put you on the winning side– no matter how many stubborn times it takes!

Website: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

FATHER’S DAY – EQUAL TIME?

Would you like to celebrate Parents’ Day? That was an idea floated at numerous rallies during the 1920’s and ’30’s . The goal was to honor both parents at once, rather than separately. But it failed to generate enough enthusiasm.

The truth is that although Father’s Day is observed in more than 70 countries, it’s never matched the popularity of Mothers’ Day, despite being originally inspired by it. In 1909 a Seattle woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, wanted to pay tribute to her father, a widower who had single-handedly raised his six children. Hearing about a new observance called Mothers’ Day, Dodd decided fathers should get equal time. She campaigned for this vigorously at local organizations and government offices. The result was the first Father’s Day celebration on June 19, 1910. (She had wanted the date to be June 5, her father’s birthday, but local ministers protested that they needed more time after Mothers’ Day to prepare different sermons!)

Initially, Father’s Day was only observed in Dodd’s home state of Washington. The custom became popular across the country, but not as an official holiday. Then in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson honored the occasion by unfurling a flag in Spokane, with the aid of telegraph signals. But governments can’t be hurried. It was another 56 years before Father’s Day became a federal holiday, via a 1972 proclamation by President Nixon.

The question is, why hasn’t Father’s Day gotten the same recognition and hoopla as the day for Moms? Retailers basking in lucrative candy, perfume and flower sales for Mom, report that profits are billions less from such unromantic items for Dad as socks and ties, or even power tools and golf clubs. (Liquor stores do report substantially more sales for men!)

But I think there’s more to this than the commercial aspect. There’s a sentimental image of Mom as the heart of the family. (Multiply ever-loving Marmee in ”Little Women.”) On the other hand, a majority of men think a day for expressing love to a father isn’t ”macho.” In my own family my mother was unabashed in her expectation and appreciation of the holiday attention, whereas my father scoffed at similar efforts by my sister and me as “ridiculous” – invariably followed by a gruff: “I don’t need presents.”

To be fair, men have had a tougher time being the loving parent because they were
traditionally the breadwinners, so had less time with their children . Of course,
these days the executive dashing off to work is often Mama! With fathers now sharing child-rearing, this shift may ultimately be reflected in a heightened importance given to Father’s Day. Yet I know that if my father were alive he’d still prefer to be ignored (a modesty his daughters didn’t inherit!)

I can’t resist pointing out one other thing: In my previous blog I protested the apostrophe in Mothers’ Day, which makes it look as though the holiday is for all mothers rather than a personal tribute to your own. So I’m glad to see that the apostrophe is right where it belongs in Father’s Day. Dads win that one at least!.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

ANNA’S APOSTROPHE

As a writer who’s avid about correct punctuation I’ve been critical of the apostrophe in Mother’s Day, for it implies that the day is just for one mother. I now discover the placement was the decision of Anna Jarvis who was originally responsible for the holiday. Having recently lost her mother, Anna promoted the idea of everyone paying tribute to ONE mother, their own.

That was back in 1904. Since then Anna’s innocent tribute has grown far beyond her intention, like a faucet that overflows into a flood. Just 13 years later President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday, to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The day’s popularity has been a multi-billion dollar windfall for florists, candy companies and card manufacturers. (Cynics dub the day the Hallmark Holiday.)

Anna, on the other hand, was horrified by the hoopla. She fought a strenuous and costly battle – using her own funds – to have the holiday deleted from the national calendar. Obviously, her efforts weren’t successful. She has been blessed – and resented – by women ever since.

The image of the day is of  a beaming mother wearing a corsage (a white carnation is the symbolic flower), while receiving hugs and gifts from her ever-loving, attentive children. But the reality is that this is a sitcom scenario in many cases.

It would be good for all of us to recognize that Mother’s Day is far from joyous for many women. I have a friend who has been desperately trying to conceive without success, and finds Happy Mom reminders painful, like most women  in her situation. Think, too,  of  those who are enduring the unspeakable – the heartbreaking loss of a child. Even when children are well the relationship might not  be, for our offspring may be estranged. And since we were once children ourselves, there are many women who, like Anna Jarvis, are mourning the absence of their own mother.

So I suggest that we remain sensitive to the varied feelings of other women. This doesn’t mean condescending sympathy where it may not even be welcome. It means treating one another with empathy and being willing to listen. Flowers wilt, but your words or embrace can have lasting impact – far more meaningful than a box of candy!

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

SIBLING DRAMA

Siblings have been providing dramatic stories ever since Cain killed Abel. Shakespeare’s tragedies are rife with bloody conflicts between brothers. Women don’t get off Scot (or British) free either. Think of the Biblical hostility between Rachel and Leah when they had to share a husband! So our fascination with sibling conflicts is nothing new. What’s more modern is that it’s front-page news on both sides of what the British quaintly call the “pond.”

I’m referring, of course, to the current duo of royal princes, William and Harry. Multitudes tuned into the funeral of Prince Phillip, curious about how the brothers would – or would not – interact. TV focused greedily on the contrasting scenes. They’re walking separately! They’re together, talking!

At this point we don’t know what the third act will be. Happy, if shaky, ending? Permanent estrangement? I don’t have a favorite in this contest, although I think it must be difficult to be the “spare” when older brother is the heir. But does the future king envy the free-wheeling spirt of his less encumbered brother? And is there anyone among us who hasn’t known that who’s–getting-the-bigger-slice-of-the-pie rivalry

Truth Time: I have a personal reason for writing about this scenario. One year ago I lost my only sibling.

Through the years my sister and I ran the gamut of love and hate. Pride in one another alternated with competitiveness. In later years, both of us widowed, we recovered the closeness we had been careless with. To quote a wise woman I once interviewed, “You learn to maximize what you share and let the rest go.”

My sister was lively, intelligent, generous. She could also be petty, angry, unhearing. Or am I describing both of us?

I have long believed that as much as therapists harp on the trauma of what our parents did, sibling relationships are equally crucial. The fortunate among  us discover that although the bond may become frayed, it’s unbreakable.As the royal brothers may realize, it’s also a gift.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME AND GO – available through BookBaby.com;WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

ZOOM – UP AND DOWN

Like so much else these days, Zoom and similar tools are a mixed blessing. On one hand, they allow us to be in visual touch with relatives and friends who would become strangers otherwise. On the down side, seeing people we love on a computer screen is far from the same as being with them physically.

I’m writing this on a day when that difference is painfully present. I’ve just “zoomed” with my children. It was lovely to see their faces, but frustrating because, as another mother wept to me, “We can’t hug them.”

I confess that after the visit was over and my home silent again, I sank way down. All I could think was, how long will it be until I see them for real? How different will we each become before we meet again?

In a way, this parallels our mixed Pandemic view. Out of hopelessness, hope at last. Yet there’s still pervasive fear because the “light ” at the end of this long tunnel is threatened by the invasion of variants. Most of us are emotionally knocking on wood.

The challenge is to allow ourselves fleeting gifts of joy. To feel pleasure without obsessing about what tomorrow might bring.

It isn’t solely the connections with people we love that’s difficult. Our careers are, too. Too often I detour into anxiety: impossible to promote my new book when author tours are a relic of the past and book stores aren’t scheduling in-person readings. Then, as if I put on different glasses, I see the possible. Authors are doing readings virtually. Researching book clubs that welcome these visits is more productive than biting my nails.

Years ago when I was worrying about some problem that was down the road, my sister gave me seven-word advice: ”Don’t be there ‘til you get there.

Easier said than done? Yes. But focusing on whatever blessings we have now can make the difference between fully living each day – or losing irreplaceable time.

We can also plan something to look forward to when the screen goes dark. Isn’t that a metaphor for survival?

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

A TEACHER TO REMEMBER

“Don’t forget the ladies, John.” That was the famed message Abigail Adams gave her husband as he departed for the conference (all male) that would write our Constitution. Despite her sage advice, the “ladies” were overlooked and marginalized for the next couple of centuries.

March is Women’s History Month. Only a month? We deserve a year at least to cover what we’ve accomplished. Even Abigail didn’t dream that a woman would rise to the top level of the federal government. Not as the chief honcho (honcha?), but certainly shattering that age-old glass ceiling. We also have more women in Congress and in executive positions around the country, than ever before in America’s history. (U.S. is also US. )

On a personal level, I’m betting that most of us owe a debt to some woman who helped us become the person we are today. Even our Madam Vice-President credits her elementary school teacher. So I want to pay homage to Miss Maher. (In her day there was no such title as Ms.) She was my English teacher in Junior High School. Small in stature, she was an odd figure with one shoulder noticeably higher than the other. This led the teenage boys in the class to refer to her as “the hunchback.” I‘m certain she was aware of the jokes and crude cartoons left too visible on the desks. Yet she stood with dignity in front of those boys, reading poems she loved and wanted us to know. She inspired me to revere the Romantic poets.

But I owe Miss Maher an even greater debt. One chilly autumn day at lunchtime I was alone in the school yard. A lonely kid, I sat on a bench and scribbled some words in my notebook. I was 12 years old and this was my first attempt to write a poem.

After school that day, I shyly asked Ms. Maher if she’d like to read my poem – and ran out. The next morning, she called me to her desk to tell me, “ You have a talent for writing.” The poem was amateurish, but that affirmation was everything to a young girl in a family that didn’t dole out praise and had no time for anything as trivial as poetry. Miss Maher then added three words that have dominated my life: “Honor that talent!

That teacher is long gone, but I wish she could know that her belief in me grew roots.
That even through the lonely struggle and inevitable rejections, I “honor” my writing by staying dedicated every day.

I hope if each of us looked back we could find at least one woman who lit a spark in us, a spark that ignited belief in our own possibilities.

(Who did that for you? Send the name to me at annehosansky.com and have her acknowledged in these blogs.)

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com; Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

A LIGHT WITHIN

It’s a freezing February morning and I woke to see the world transformed by a blizzard. There’s pristine snow disguising so many familiar things; my neighbors’ garbage pails, for instance. If only the ugly schism in our country could be covered as easily.

January transformed us, too, for it was a month of stark opposites such as I’ve never seen before. First the hate-filled attack on the Capitol, followed two brief weeks later by an orderly change of power. ”Democracy has prevailed,” declared our new president.

As hopeful as Biden’s speech was, they aren’t the words that have been replaying in my head. Rather I’m challenged by the closing lines of Junior Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem.:
For there will always be light
““““` `If only we’re brave enough to see it
I““““` `If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Light is a metaphor in so many poems, songs, quotes. I’ve used the image many times, even as recently as a blog where I quoted J. K. Rowling about the need to “find the light” even in darkness.

But there’s a huge difference between finding light, and being it. For instance, suppose you’re handed a daunting assignment: create a meaningful inaugural ceremony in the midst of a pandemic, without the visual and auditory images of massive crowds cheering. So what do you do? Do you wait for an illusory fairy godmother to come up with ideas (she’s been on leave lately). What if there’s a light within you that assures you that you have the imagination to empower a novel idea. Instead of crowds of people, you’ll crowd the Mall with a dramatic sea of American flags. You’ll add rows of candles to memorialize those we have lost to Covid. Images so successful, there are already demands they be continued in the future!

Closer to home, the manuscript you’ve slaved over for years is rejected again and again. So what do you do? Sink into the darkest of moods and stay there? Or does a power within you illuminate the strength to keep trying? My first short story was rejected by editors   28 times. On the verge of giving up, I summoned up enough belief to submit the story again. On the 29th time it became my first published story.

I don’t mean to imply that belief magically makes things happen. What I do mean to say – and that I work at every day – is that the ability to rise above defeat does ultimately reside within us. We don’t have to wait for someone else to light a candle for us, we can keep our own light burning ; a light that can only be extinguished by a lack of faith in ourselves.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, Widow’s Walk –iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com, Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.

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