Thursday, September 24, 2015

Green Lake, Wisconsin

            Refugees from the Middle East and Africa are overwhelming Europe. Closer to home in Chicago, we hear about children dieing from gun violence almost daily. Sometimes, I like to take a break from the news, avoiding even hearing or reading about what’s going on out there. At such times, it feels good to get away.
            At these times, a trip to the country feels really good. For once, I don’t have a social message to my travels. Green Lake in central Wisconsin not far from Green Bay is a place to listen to the crickets and the water on the lake. It’s a town of about 960 people on the north side of Big Green Lake. People go there for fishing, boating, swimming, and relaxing.
            We were happy to meet friends there who live in northern Wisconsin a few weeks ago. We stayed at the Heidleberg House, a resort with its own lake front and small beach. It has a restaurant on the grounds and even an ice cream shop. What more could we ask for? We enjoyed a weekend of catching up and enjoying the scenery. You can often find good deals for weekend or one-night getaways to it on the website
            Absent my usual social messages, here are a few pictures of the area. I get relaxed even looking at these pictures.

on the grounds of Heidleberg House


evening in the town of Green Lake

view from Big Green Lake

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Climbing in Walt Whitman's Footsteps

As we climbed the stairs of the famous Powell’s Book Store in Portland, Oregon, I couldn’t help but notice the writing on the stairs. Highlighted in purple are the words, “What do Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Beatrix Potter, and DH Lawrence have in common? They’ve all self-published.”

I climbed the first stair stepping over the words “Are you next?”

If I decided to take that step, I knew I’d obviously be in good company. Nevertheless, at the time, I wasn’t ready to climb to the next step: “They’ve all self-published.”

In the past two years, the publishing world has continued to change. With the growth of e-books and print-on-demand, traditional publishing has become tighter and harder to penetrate as a new writer. At the same time, self-publishing has lost a lot of its former stigma. The questions swirling in my mind were how much time did I want to spend sending query letters and waiting for answers? How much back up help would traditional publishers provide in the way of promotion? Could I do this? I weighed the options and decided that yes, I was ready to climb to that step. And so I entered to world of self-publishing.

As a social worker, I listened to many stories from people who most people don’t have the opportunity to know. I’ve listened to their conflicts and pain crossing into places that many of us fortunately will never enter. Bridging that gap, I bring you their stories. Since I want you to know these people, I opted to join Walt Whitman et al. Yes, I’ve figuratively walked over the steps. They’ve all self-published - Are you next? -Yes I am.

And so Breaking The Fall is out there on Kindle and  Smashwords and coming soon on Nook, I-Phones, and Amazon as a print-on-demand book. 

Breaking the Fall opens as Sherry Berger, a therapist on the northwest side of Chicago, contemplates how to reconcile her apparently middle class life with the life and death emergencies of her clients. Sherry has secrets of her own and she hopes that these secrets won’t impact her ability to help her clients.

As readers meet Sherry’s clients, they’ll see Sherry’s frustration and agony. Sherry tries to help her clients overcome barriers to their healing that our society places before them, often unexpectedly and at crucial times in their lives. They often face obstacles to achieving their goals, maintaining their equilibrium, and in some cases, even surviving.

Will Sherry decide to continue to work with these challenges or will she choose another path? Will she resolve her own family issues or will her clients’ problems engulf her?

After reading Breaking the Fall, I hope you'll understand it better. I've entered the world of self-publishing. Now I welcome you to learn about my world.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Re-visiting The Stranger

A few months ago, I re-read The Stranger by Albert Camus. We had read a passage of it in my French conversation class and my curiosity was piqued. I admit that my memory of the details of the book were sketchy. As those of you who read it may remember, it takes place in 1963 in Algeria toward the end of their war of independence from France. The main character Meursault is arrested for and charged with killing an Arab Algerian. He is tried in court but also tried in the court of public opinion for his apparent callousness toward his mother’s recent death.

In The Meursault Investigation written by Kamel Daoud, an Algerian journalist, and translated by John Cullen, The Stranger is turned inside out, told by Daoud from the Arab point of view.  The language that Daoud uses is quite descriptive and very poetic. It is a parallel story of what became of the family of Mersault's victim.

The main point of The Meursault Investigation is that Meusault’s victim is never referred to by his name and his body is never actually found. Equally anonymous are the victim’s mother and brother who are never able to move forward with their lives after the murder. Instead, they spend the rest of their lives unsuccessfully trying to make sense of it as it destroys their lives.

The book brings to mind the Woody Guthrie song “All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees.” One way to de-humanize a victim is to take away his name. Once the victim becomes less than human, it is easier to assuage one's guilt feelings while abusing another human being. Meursault’s victim’s family never achieves closure. The Deportees – Mexican migrant farmers – are lost in everyone’s memory. Concentration camp inmates had their names removed and numbers tattooed on their arms. Some lessons are universal and the ones taught in The Meursault Investigation are instructive in the refugee/ immigration situation today. Woody Guthrie made that point powerfully in the song "All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees."