Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CNN Report of U.S. Poverty Level Rising

This is CNN's report on the current U. S. economic stats. Extreme wealthy enjoy more wealth while the middle-class and poor are pushed further into poverty.

This article states the hard truth

This article states the hard truth about the current downward spiral and ultimate downfall of the United States. There are some grammatical and sentence structure errors, but the overall information is quite exact in content. If you have the courage to read it, click on the link below.


Friday, September 2, 2011

I love this piece on booksellers

This was published in Shelf-awareness Pro today. I think it's a wonderful piece. I must admit that I, too, have often fantasized about how lovely it would be to be a bookseller. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Working through all the muck - breathing

I've been seriously wondering - questioning even - about how the internet affects our lives. Really. My vote is not in yet, but I'm giving it a good hard look.

For those of us who are giving life, in general, a good hard look, re-evaluating priorities and shifting our focus from what other people think is important to what truly matters to us, this is the natural thing to do. What really matters in life? For me, it's all about self-discovery, self-realization. Mostly, that involves some kind of true connection with others as well as with my own deeper being. Not about adding to my hits on any given website.

I've been fortunate to know, firsthand, several people who have been what our society refers to as "successful." That means having acquired money, acknowledgement/respect from their "peers," and the appearance of having a life of ease. But I wouldn't trade lives with any of them. Not one. I don't know one "successful" person who has what I desire. Inner freedom.

What do I mean by that? For me, true freedom is what I will call a spiritual reality, not a material one. It has nothing to do with your income, your appearances, or what other people think of you. In fact, it involves being completely detached from desiring or even noticing any of those things.

For example, I write stories and poems, songs and musical pieces, because of some deep inner desire to express a creative energy through those particular art forms. It isn't really about whether I get kudos or not. It's about the act of the channeling of that creative energy. Sharing the creation is important because it lets people into that proverbial sphere the art form expresses. But it's not the all-important reason for expressing the art form.

So much of material success involves dumb luck. A whole lot of hard, devoted work, yes. But also just plain dumb luck. Or maybe it's karma. Or some combination thereof. But, no matter what it is, much of material "success" seems to depend on circumstance as much as hard work. So, about that "dumb luck" aspect: If we can't control how our creative work is to be received by others, why worry over it? If we find that dumb luck (or karma, or whatever) is in our favor, fine. If it's not, also fine.

We have to be who we are. We can't be anyone else. (Everyone else is taken, right?) So, we keep on working in and with the creative processes that we do; writing, performing, whatever our creative expression is. Like breathing. The only real success to it is getting that oxygen into our systems. Circulating the blood. Experiencing what it is to be alive in this creative expression we call life.

So, back to "working through all the muck." The "muck," from my perspective, is the Great Lie that permeates every aspect of our culture that the work, in itself, is valueless. It only has value if/when the work makes money, impresses a lot of people (or "the right" people), and makes us look important, helps us to believe that we are important. Because, without "success," we're not important, right?

But I believe that Lie is the muck that keeps folks from pursuing creative expression. As a culture, we are focused on the wrong values. It's not what comes from the work, it's the work itself. The creative experience is what is most valuable.

So, I, like many other artists I know (and don't know), just keep putting one foot in front of the other, expressing the creative as best as we can, and offer our bit up. Sludging through the muck, one step at a time. Breathing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My science-fiction novel THE DREAM STAR is finally in print!

Hurrah! Hurrah! My sci-fi novel, The Dream Star, is finally a real live printed book! It's been a long process to get it published but it's finally done. I'm selling it through CreateSpace.com: https://www.createspace.com/3675208

I'm celebrating this auspicious occasion with a DISCOUNTED PRICE on The Dream Star ebook. Check it out at barnesandnoble's site: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan-botich?store=ebook

For those writers who are thinking about self-publishing, I would highly encourage checking out all the options available to ensure that you make the right choice for a publishing house that will meet your particular needs. It's a big decision. There are lots of options nowadays for publishing an ebook. And a lot of authors are choosing this route more and more every day. The main thing to remember is to not let yourself get discouraged while in the process. The time you take to make your book what you want it to be, is vital.

Anyone who has thoughts on marketing for self-published authors, please feel free to share your comments. I'd love to hear them. I'll keep writing about this ongoing process as it progresses.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

This poem by Claude McKay is so painfully right on.

(And, of course, this is true of all women who must run 'round and 'round on the hamster wheel, too.) 

Joy in the Woods
by Claude McKay

There is joy in the woods just now,
       The leaves are whispers of song,
And the birds make mirth on the bough
       And music the whole day long,
And God! to dwell in the town
       In these springlike summer days,
On my brow an unfading frown
       And hate in my heart always—

A machine out of gear, aye, tired,
Yet forced to go on—for I’m hired.

Just forced to go on through fear,
       For every day I must eat
And find ugly clothes to wear,
       And bad shoes to hurt my feet
And a shelter for work-drugged sleep!
       A mere drudge! but what can one do?
A man that’s a man cannot weep!
       Suicide? A quitter? Oh, no!

But a slave should never grow tired,
Whom the masters have kindly hired.

But oh! for the woods, the flowers
       Of natural, sweet perfume,
The heartening, summer showers
       And the smiling shrubs in bloom,
Dust-free, dew-tinted at morn,
       The fresh and life-giving air,
The billowing waves of corn
       And the birds’ notes rich and clear:—

For a man-machine toil-tired
May crave beauty too—though he’s hired.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My novels are published on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com

Both of my novels, ENCHANTMENTS (fantasy based on Arthurian myth) and THE DREAM STAR (science-fiction) are now available on both amazon.com
and barnesandnoble.com
You can download their eReaders for FREE with one click. AND you can read sample chapters for FREE, too! Cool. Very cool.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Michael Seidenberg's "hidden bookstore" in New York

This is inspiring! When the red tape and costs of owning a "legal bookstore" get out of hand, just do it anyway. Tenacity and simple love for literature inspired Michael Seidenberg, a long-time bookseller, to find another way to share his passion for books with those who are smart enough and willing to think outside the box in order to find him. Wonderful video:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Plans that "don't work out."

David and I wanted to listen to some local music last night and saw some advertised in both the local papers, the Bend Bulletin and the Source Weekly, at Bend's PoetHouse Art in downtown, so we went there but found that the papers had mis-advertised and there was no music. Bummer. But the two artists there (PoetHouse Art is an art studio and workshop space) were so nice and helpful - they pulled over a laptop and searched and found another local musician playing at The Silver Moon. So, we thanked them and went on our way. Meanwhile, Dan joins us (thinking that the original musician is playing at PoetHouse) so we decide to get a walk in and wander on down to The Silver Moon.

Silver Moon is kind of on the outskirts of downtown area and we were feeling like it might not be where we want to be because of the street being kind of dark and that area of town looking less "cool" than the downtown area. But then we noticed that there were no Harley's outside the bar, only bicycles parked right out front. OK, well, this is Bend, we say to each other, and go into what looks like a rather funky bar (no offense intended Silver Moon folks).

What we found was that The Silver Moon is yet another brewery among Bend's dozen or so. The music hadn't started yet but the guys spotted the pool table, thought it'd be fun to play a round or two, so we decided to hang out until the music started. Our waitress was really sweet and had a great sense of humor about her and also really fun energy. So, we sat down and ordered some brews on tap. Great beers! We got curious about the food, so we asked to see a menu. Surprise! This place was not a "dive" at all. Maybe a little funky looking around the edges but definitely totally cool. There were vegan and vegetarian appetizers and entrees, homemade pizza, great looking salads, and, of course, the burgers. The guys played a couple rounds of pool then came back when the music got started. Lief James was the musician/songwriter. Strong acoustic guitar with a singing and musical style that reminded me of Bruce Springsteen a bit. He had good energy and we were having fun. So, we ordered a pizza. Delicious! Wow! Who knew? Well, apparently, the locals. Because the place started getting packed with a cross demographic of locals all having a good time.

We thought, "OK, this was fun, now it's time to go on home." We left and started walking to our cars when we spotted THE DUMPLING GUYS. These are local guys who make the best dumplings in the world and sell them on the street corner (of Bond and Minnesota) from a food cart. Of course, they have vegan dumplings, homemade sausage dumplings, south-of-the-border style dumplings, and more. And they are soooo good. So, we stop and have a dumpling. Yum.

There were some young musicians setting up so we asked them if they're going to play and they told us (in a very friendly and open, welcoming way) that they are celebrating the Dump City Dumpling's 1-year anniversary with some free music. They started to play and we were surprised at how really very good they were. (I say this because they looked like they must have been high school age.) Their band (I think they said it was called New Side Jazz Quartet but don't hold me to that) consisted of trap drums, sax, keyboard and base. We listened  and started to chatting with some other folks hanging around and had a great time.

We were struck by how everyone was so nice and open and into chatting and just having a good time. Shouldn't this be normal? Why isn't every place like this? I guess we just haven't been used to it, so it struck us as strikingly unusual.

All in all, we had a wonderful evening, didn't have to spend a lot of money, and it was all healthy (beer is good for you - it's a medical fact, you can look it up) and it was all in good fun. Babies and little kids hanging out with teens and young adults with middle-aged and some of us older farts - all enjoying one another's company.

Now, David and I could have just gotten bummed out about not being able to hear the musician we'd planned on but we went with the flow and it was better than we had imagined. Good idea. Just sharing it. Gotta go. There's a hiking trail calling. Later.

I love this poem by Walt Whitman

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
   the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
   with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
   quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
   the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
   the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Haiku - who knew?

I got to attend the most enlightening workshop last Sunday, June 5, on a poetry form I've never considered as a "true" form (ever since being subjected to "learning" it in high school, meaning that I was taught several urban myths about it that were completely incorrect and misguiding). What poetry form could that be, you may ask? Haiku!

Yes! You read it right - haiku! The reason I never gave it notice before? When I was "taught" haiku in high school English class, we were told the form of specific syllables for each of the three lines had to be 5/7/5. Wrong! Complete myth based on a lack of understanding about Japanese language and how a form like this one translates into English. The stressing of the ever-and-all-importance of syllables caused me to feel like this form was just another stilted, rigid form. But here's the deal. In Japanese, syllables are inconsequential. It's the sounds within each word that matter. And the Japanese hear language sounds quite differently than we English-speaking folks do. So, when we write haiku in English, we must throw away that silly rule of 5/7/5 syllable count. It has absolutely nothing to do with haiku. It never did. What I learned in that workshop was that haiku is a tremendously huge poetry expression held inside a very, very small package. The spirit of the haiku is more important than the form.  Revelation! That's what poetry is all about, in any form, including free verse. Ah ha!

The workshop was led by Michael Dylan Welch, the vice-president of the Haiku Society of America and sponsored by a local chapter, hosted by haiku poet An'ya. Michael also touched very briefly on the related Japanese poetry forms of senryu, tanka, and renga (which are also very fascinating forms that I want to continue to study and learn more on).

Anyway, for those who have been misled by well-meaning but misguided high school teachers, please check out the Haiku Society of America website: http://www.hsa-haiku.org/ and let your walls be shattered about haiku. The purpose of this very short form (at least as I understand it right now) is to zero in on the specific in order to reveal the universal. Well, that's poetry in any language or form! By abstaining from any author subjective opinion, remaining (as much as possible) objective, and only observing any given thing/event/person etc., the poem finds the universal.

There's so much to learn about haiku and its related forms! I understand that I know truly nothing right now but, nevertheless, I feel I've stepped onto a whole new path of expression that is both the exploring of new literary lands and, yet, immediately placing me into that new land, too. It's like you just start walking and you become aware of how you're already there because "there" and "here" are actually one and the same. You're just walking the path to get "here" a little more fully with each step. OK, this is really a ramble, now, and that's what I tend to do and that's why this form is so good for me to practice. Less talk. More just being present. Good focus.

Here's a haiku by Michael Dylan Welch:

the black elder
shakes its shadow loose...
early snowfall

Here's a few haiku I wrote during and after the workshop: 

lilac exhales sweetness 
into the park - 
finches chorus 

the robin's prize: 
seed, blossom, tight in her beak - 
clouds hold the sun 

yellow bush
petals blown, suspended
bees hum 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beautiful spring day

Today was one of those days that makes you smile even though all you're doing is errands and various chores. The sun played hide-and-seek all day, using Vanilla Sky clouds to disappear behind then ease on out to caress its warmth against your skin. Cool breezes became crisp and sharp with the smell of rain climbing its way over the Cascades. A little patter of rain - just enough to sweeten the fragrance of the grass and manzanita - then gone with a whisper. The silk-blue sky shared equal space with cumulus clouds and the robins were doing what they're most famous for - bob-bob-bobbing along. We saw our first two Bend quail today. We had many dozens of quail in our yard in Nevada but this was the first time we'd spotted them here. They're a little slimmer here, we noticed. The robins chased them out of the back yard and quickly got busy again with their very well-known bobbing. David and I took our now-customary walk after dinner under a passing "sun-rain" - syncopated, hesitant droplets too shy to be called a shower. Now, the quiet of evening with its subtle shift of colors, slowly washing into grays. Yep. It was a lovely day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still getting settled into our new home

It takes time to re-establish yourself in a new community. My husband, David, and I moved to Bend, Oregon, last month and we're still getting "settled." We've lived in a lot of places from California to Alaska to Washington to Minnesota to Hawaii to Nevada and, now, here in Oregon. We love the trees, the Cascades, the Deschutes and other rivers and creeks all so close. And the town of Bend is a wonderful blend of hep with friendly - a lot of art support is very apparent. Everywhere you go, you'll see very creative sculpture - on street corners, in the middle of the roundabouts, etc.

Deer regularly visit our back yard and enjoy the fresh spring grass. One usually stands sentry while the rest casually dine. They're easygoing about our presence and don't mind us watching them from the back deck. That's a joy we haven't had in many a year. Swallows hang out in the trees out back, so we get to watch their cream and gray flits from tree to tree throughout the day.

Mornings are especially nice. David and I have been waking up earlier than what became usual in Nevada. We feel excited about getting into the new day. "What will it bring?" "Let's get started and find out."

But, now that we've made the plunge to move here, we're trying to get a true feel for the waters and how to swim them. We've learned that every community is different. A lot of those differences are subtle but significant and only time and getting know the locals can reveal how to navigate the new land.

So, I'm writing now to clarify thought on our progress. More to myself, I think, than anything else. I've decided to treat this blog a little more like a diary of sorts. Just talk about my experiences, feelings, thoughts and so on. Don't know if anyone is reading but this is, at the very least, a chance to get my thoughts out. We'll see how it all progresses. The saga of changes. Life. Until next time...