Friday, October 29, 2010

Author Interview with Diana Altman

Today we're talking with Diana Altman, author of In Theda Bara's Tent.

FQ: - I am intrigued by the title of the book. How did you decide on In Theda Bara's Tent?

The hero of my novel is sixteen when he sees the latest film starring Theda Bara and falls in love with her. He believes everything he’s read, that she’s the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French mistress, that she was brought up on the sands of Arabia and danced on the French stage. She wears gossamer culottes and twisty snake bracelets on her milk-white upper arms. She holds interviews with the press in an incense-smelling, candle-lit tent where she speaks in whispers and is surrounded by human skulls. Harry sneaks into her tent and there he sees…I laughed so much writing this scene. Poor Harry comes to his senses but at the same time what he learns is useful for the rest of his life. Theda Bara was the first screen star whose biography was entirely invented. Her employer William Fox (1879-1952) was the first movie mogul to use vaudeville ballyhoo to promote a photoplayer. It’s Harry’s first recognition that the public can be manipulated. He also meets William Fox in the tent who, impressed by Harry’s nerve, promises him a job at Fox News.

FQ: Do you have a particular connection to this period in history?

The history of the American film industry is, as my reviewer so astutely points out, the history of the United States because the growth of that industry is tied to World War 1, prohibition, the Spanish flu epidemic, and technology inventions. These huge events infiltrate the story and matter a great deal to all the characters. On a personal note, my father, the late Al Altman, was intimately involved with the growth of the industry because he worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from the beginning in 1924. He was the talent scout who discovered Joan Crawford, Jimmy Stewart, Ava Gardner and dozens of other unknown actors who became great stars.

FQ: It is clear that a lot of research went into the writing of this book. How much research did you do along the way? What were some of your best sources?

In Theda Bara’s Tent is based on the research I did for my first book Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the Origins of the Studio System (Carol Publishing, 1992), a non-fiction project that took six years. I loved doing that research, imagining my father at eighteen going to work in Boston for Louis B. Mayer, an obscure theater owner who would become a Hollywood legend. The hero of my novel treads in my father’s footsteps. The founding of the American film industry is the fascinating story of men with impoverished childhoods who understood the importance of entertainment and vowed to bring the best of it to poor people, to the audience that couldn’t afford stage plays or opera. Until the 1960’s the film industry was controlled in New York by the theater companies that owned the studios. Hollywood was just a pretty face; New York was the heart and lungs. I read newspapers from the early 20th Century, movie star biographies, and film histories. I interviewed Celeste Holm, Paul Masursky and others whose screen tests were shot in New York at the old Fox Film studio on 54th St. and Tenth Ave.

FQ: How did you get started writing fiction?

While I was doing research in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where Louis B. Mayer, age 22, once owned a theater, I came upon a photograph of The Elizabeth Home for Destitute Children, an orphanage that used to be in Haverhill. I knew that one day I’d have to invent a child who goes to live in that place. I decided to show that child coming of age during the birth of the film industry. It’s tricky to do that, of course, because you have to make sure the history parts are not too intrusive. Just those two words together “destitute child” is enough to wrench an author into writing!

FQ: Is Harry based on someone in your life?

Harry is a fictional character. He’s highly intelligent, courageous, and lovable.

FQ: The use of the child's voice in the first part of the book is very convincing. Any comments on how you achieved such a realistic view of the world through the eye's of a child?

I became Harry as I was writing. Most authors have long memories. To me it was yesterday that I was seven and no one came to visit me in the hospital when I had my tonsils out. I wallowed in that memory when I took away Harry’s parents in a fire, and when I had him waiting all day for his uncle to show up and take him out of the orphanage. I understood his fury and despair and humiliation at being so helpless. I seldom thought it was fun to be a child. There was so much injustice all over the place!

FQ: As Harry becomes more involved with film, he experiences some disappointment and disillusionment with the men he admires and with the industry.

Harry is disillusioned with his boss Louis B. Mayer who invests in Birth of a Nation, a film that extols the virtues of the Ku Klux Klan. Mayer sees only the profit that will allow him to pursue his dream of starting a film production company while young Harry thinks the film is racist. Harry sees posters in Stamford, Connecticut announcing a Klan meeting open to all except those whose names are un-American. Birth of a Nation has spawned a resurgence of the Klan across America. Young Harry (years before the invention of television) now understands how the screen can be used for propaganda.

FQ: How do Harry's mixed feelings about the politics of the media mirror your own?

The hero of In Theda Bara’s Tent believes that broadcast news is entertainment, not journalism. We much prefer to see a baby playing with a puppy than a soldier burned beyond recognition. If the images coming into our homes are too awful, we turn off the television and so it was in Harry’s day. The images and stories in newsreels had to appeal to families sitting in the dark watching, both adults and children. I thought I’d show how making up the news is as old as broadcast news itself. Many of the newsreels were shot in the studio rather than at the actual event. For instance, as a child Harry sees a disturbing newsreel of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He finds out later that it was shot entirely in the Biograph studio in Brooklyn. Pathé, a newsreel company of the day, was actually in San Francisco at the time and had real footage of the real fires and the real people and the real chaos. Biograph constructed a cardboard San Francisco, set it on fire, and got their shots to the theaters first. So audiences never did see the real thing. They thought they did. I guess I’m afraid of the power of broadcast news, how photographs can be altered and stories written in slanted ways. Remember how we believed the Iraqi people were standing around cheering when that statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down and how we found out later hardly anybody was there and no one was cheering?

To learn more about In Theda Bara's Tent please visit our website and read the review at:Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted

Here are the new books, just arrived, for review.  Check them out and then stop back soon to Feathered Quill to read the reviews.

In America the Edible, Travel Channel host Adam Richman tackles the ins and outs of American cuisine, demonstrating his own unique brand of culinary anthropology. Believing that regional cuisine reveals far more than just our taste for chicken fried steak or 3-way chili, Richman explores the ethnic, economic, and cultural factors that shape the way we eat—and how food, in turn, reflects who we are as a nation. Richman uses his signature wit and casual charm to take youon a tour around the country,explaining such curiosities as why bagels are shaped like circles, why fried chicken is so popular in the South, and how some of the most iconic American food—hot dogs, fries, and soda—are not really American at all. Writing with passion, curiosity, and a desire to share his knowledge, he includes recipes, secret addresses for fun and tasty finds, and tips on how to eat like a local from coast to coast.

v2036 brings entertainment and cohesion to an otherwise depressing and incomprehensible subject: Venezuelan politics. Through the lives of three resolute men that represent the country's warring factions, the story boldly illustrates that leading the people of a volatile South American nation is anything but an easy task. A military ruler, an opposition activist and an expatriated citizen will play the famous (and infamous) roles that will lead the once proud nation to a brighter future . . . or to its final demise. Taking historical events as a starting point, v2036 pushes the boundaries of fiction with delightful characters in pivotal roles that will alter not just the way that these events enfolded, but the influence they had in the current socio-political climate of the controversial Bolivarian Republic. As the timeline advances, the story flows through the Venezuela that was to the one that is, and to the one that it might become in the not so distant future, always highlighting the rivalry that divides the most influential sectors of today's Venezuelan society.

This is the thoroughly revised, second edition of The Setup. The first edition ranked in the Amazon Top 25 for Biographies and Memoirs and inspired a hot #1 ranked cable TV show. This book is a true and modern spy story that can be told only because Michael has never signed a Non Disclosure Agreement with NSA.Read how a single phone call led the NSA to run a security operation that resulted in an overseas setup to go to jail. Hear how Michael got burned, fired, blacklisted, destituted and possibly faced death itself, but legally turned the tables on them for a job that couldn't be refused. It's the true story of a test of his resourcefulness and courage. Offered a $200,000 per year job at an airport overseas, he just missed getting it and a fresh start in Tokyo with a diplomatic passport. Fearing another setup and the law, he passed on the offer of $200,000, and got double offered in Bangkok, $400,000. When he refused this, he got sent back to the USA by the American Embassy.

Smarter than a history teacher, funnier than the Founding Fathers, and more American than Alaska, an almost (but not entirely) comprehensive primer on American history (or at least, the good stuff). In trademark smart aleck style, this is history according to mental_floss, an insightfully accurate and incisively humorous exploration of little-known truths and widely believed falsehoods, which simultaneously exposes some of America's oddest moments, strangest citizens, most egregious frauds, and much, much more. Ten meaty chapters, peppered with fun trivia, entertainingly cover the essential timeline of the social, political, and cultural happenings of American history and mythbust all the lies teachers told us along the way. Was Abraham Lincoln really a heroic defender of liberty and freedom? Were the Sixties actually a groovy time of peace and love? Has the U.S. always been dependent on foreign oil? mental_floss sets the record straight and shares the fascinating stories behind politics, literature, fashion, televangelism, serial killers, genetic engineering, Yuppies, SPAM, the original Swine Flu, potato chips, rollerskating, mobsters, rum, communists, beaver wars, the rise and fall of irony, and everything else made in the U.S.A.

A primary-source collection of momentous changes in the political economy of a (fictional) West African nation.

The Pushcart Prize

The Pushcart Prize nomination process.

Send nominations to
Pushcart Press
P.O. Box 380
New York 11975.
Phone: 631 324-9300
Little magazine and small book press editors (print or online) may make up to six nominations from their year’s publications by our December 1, (postmark) deadline. The nominations may be any combination of poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot. Editors may nominate self-contained portions of books — for instance, a chapter from a novel. We welcome translations, reprints and both traditional and experimental writing. One copy of each selection should be sent. No nominations can be returned. There is no entry fee and no forms to fill out. We also accept nominations from our staff of distinguished Contributing Editors.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Judge Halts Massachusetts "Harmful to Minors" Law

A federal judge today halted the implementation of a Massachusetts law that would ban certain works from the Internet and punish distributors of works deemed to be “harmful to minors,” deeming it overly broad and in violation of the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel said  the law, Chapter 74 of the Acts of 2010, was too broadly written because it did not require that materials in question be "purposefully sent to a person the sender knew to be a minor.” Signed into law this past April, the statute made anyone who operates a Web site or communicates through an electronic listserv criminally liable for nudity or sexually related material deemed harmful to minors, and subjected violators to a $10,000 and to up to five years in prison.

The decision comes after a group of booksellers, advocates and trade associations sued the state in July, arguing that the sweeping new law breached the First Amendment because it could be used to ban virtually anything from the Internet, including material adults have a First Amendment right to view.  Plaintiffs included the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Harvard Book Store, the Photographic Resource Center, Porter Square Books.
A spokesperson for the plaintiffs said they were pleased with the judge’s decision, though it is unclear if legislators will attempt revive the law by shoring up its overly broad language. “The problems with this law show the danger of legislating out of fear, and in a hurry,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “This case is a reminder that we need to remain ever-vigilant in the defense of basic civil liberties against lawmakers who try to capitalize on cases involving children to expand government power in ways that could be used to silence booksellers, artists, healthcare providers, and the rest of us.”

The ruling is the latest in a string of First Amendment battles for booksellers and publishers in the digital age ostensibly to protect minors. In September, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down two Oregon statutes aimed at preventing sexual abuse as overly broad and in violation of free speech protections. The recent battles recall the debate and lawsuits over filtering in public libraries and the subsequent lawsuit over Child Online Protection Act (COPA). COPA was invalidated by the third Circuit in 2003. In addition, seven state laws containing similar content-based restrictions for online communication have now been struck down or enjoined as unconstitutional, including cases in Virginia, Vermont, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona, South Carolina, and New York.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Make Way For Ducklings - Again

On Sunday, I mentioned one of my favorite books, Make Way for Ducklings.  I wrote a quick overview and suggested anybody who loves children's books (kids and adults alike) check out this classic.  I just posted the full review and thought I'd share here.

Make Way for Ducklings

By: Robert McCloskey
Publisher: The Viking Press
Publication Date: January 1941
ISBN: 978-0670451494
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 26, 2010

We don’t normally review books that were published so long ago, but I’ve “re-fallen” (is that a word?) in love with this book and I wanted to share with our readers. I was in Boston recently and, while browsing in the "Bostonian Society Museum Shop," found (or more aptly, re-discovered) Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I LOVE this book.  

Make Way for Ducklings was originally published in 1941 and is about the ducks living on the Boston Common. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are looking for a place to live but they just can’t seem to find the right spot. Finally, after much searching, they discover the perfect new home – a tiny little island, surrounded by a lovely pond, in the middle of the Boston Public Garden (a.k.a. Boston Common). The ducks love their new home and start thinking of raising a family there. But just then, a boy on his bike, vroom, vroom, comes squealing through the ducks. “We’ll have to look somewhere else,” suggests Mrs. Mallard. The ducks eventually find a quite spot next to the Charles River. They build a nest and hatch out eight wonderful ducklings. Life is grand for the new duck family.

One day Mr. Mallard decides to go exploring and tells Mrs. Mallard that they should meet in a week at the Public Garden. Unfortunately, little ducklings can’t fly. So in a week, they set off – right through the city of Boston! – to get to the Public Garden. Watch out! Baby ducklings on the move!

Robert McCloskey got the idea for this book while living in Boston. “I noticed the traffic problem of the ducks, and heard a few stories about them. Then the book just sort of developed from there.” (from the dust jacket)

Make Way for Ducklings is a sweet story with fabulous drawings by the author (all in brown pencil - no bright, multi-colored pictures). The drawings have a very old-fashioned feel - check out the cars in the pictures! - which I really got a kick out of. The story itself is timeless. A bronze statue of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings (one has a tendency to wander off, er, get stolen from time to time) greets visitors to Boston Common while the book itself has never been out of print since 1941 and has sold over two million copies! If you go to Amazon to purchase, be careful about buying used copies. Because the book is so old, used copies apparently can be old, creaky, smelly, etc. The copy I bought is brand new.

Quill says: If you've never read the book, or haven't seen it in a long time, check it out. Your kids should enjoy it as much as you did a “few” years ago.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Author Interview with Dr. Mushtaq H. Jaafri - Part 2

FQ: In ACIM – Text 21 – introduction 1.7 it states, “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” Is this the message that you wish to impart to the Christians and Muslims of the world? Which path should they follow together?
You are truly a very observant person. This quote from the text of ACIM: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” is certainly a timely message for both the Christians and Muslims.
Now, why didn’t I think of it?  No, all kidding aside, let me say this that the message I was trying so hard to impart to the Christians and Muslims of the world was that people are in great deal of trouble and we should contribute our particular abilities toward this ‘celestial speed up’ plan, as an aid in setting things right in the world.

A Course in Miraclesemphasizes the urgency of the need of accepting the Atonement for himself or herself by the masses at this time, The amazing effect of A Course in Miracles in our lives is that in the past twenty-five years or so, there has been a proliferation of material that claims to be inspired by A Course in Miracles. My book is a living proof of the validity of this celestial speed up prophecy.

By way of showing my gratitude toward the teachings of A Course in Miracles, I established an International Mind-Conditioning Society, an organization devoted exclusively to the teachings of the working principles of the human mind.

I often indulge in my imagination to see a place where people from all over the world come to work collectively on a “celestial speed-up” plan to change the thinking habits of the masses just as McDonald’s changed the eating habits of the masses of the world.

The goal would be to ask the people of the world, regardless of their beliefs to contribute their particular abilities toward this universal plan to change in aiding people’s minds about the nature of the world. This will surely initiate the correction of the perception of separation from God and do the work we were created to do.

Finally let me say this: Some people may feel that the book is quite short. To those people I would say that this book is not a text filled with pages of theory but, down to earth facts based on my 30+ years of extensive, real-life, practical experience practicing these ideas on a daily basis. I was concerned with the quality of the work not the quantity of the pages of the book.

I have left the full quotes of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick’s books, and the full length of the “special lesions” of the workbook for students of ACIM to help the readers find the three thought systems and how they operate in our own lives.

Perhaps, that is why some readers may feel as if they are reading two different books but, by the time they finish it, they know how the ideas of each book inter mingle with each other to become a whole. This is truly an enthusiastic, inspirational self-help book for those who seek to find the meaning of life here on earth.

FQ: You claimed that you had to struggle when you first started to write the book and set down to write it several times, only to succeed on your fourth attempt. You mentioned that you completed the book “in just two weeks by asking for the Holy Spirit’s help.” Can you tell us more about your inner struggle with this?

First of all, let me say this that I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t notice the beautiful and colorful book cover. Just look at the design and wording of the front and back cover.

I say this because the designer of this unique book cover design must have intuitively grasped the essence of the message that I was trying so hard to convey in this book, in order to come up with such a front and back cover and reads you literally.

The funny this is that the designer of the both front and back cover design probably didn’t have time to read the book as thoroughly as you did. I know for a fact that you read every page of this book to ask such probing questions.

Many times, I had to stop (and think) about your very probing questions. “Think and grow rich,” said the immortal Napoleon Hill. May I borrow his thought, and say, “Think and grow rich—spiritually that is.”

So much for the sermon for the cover and now let’s get back to your probing question #6.
“One of the difficult things, when you come to the Course for the first time, is that it will use words differently from the way that we use them in ordinary speech.” I myself had a great deal of trouble with the word Atonement.

I was so ill prepared for this that I had to look for the meaning of the word Atonement in the dictionary. But, when Dr. Kenneth Wapnick read the first manuscript, he gave me another explanation and meaning of the word Atonement that different from the popular  dictionary.  He even gave me his book: “Glossary-Index for ACIM ” to look up the meanings in the future. I believe you have noticed several quotes from his books.

Another word that I had the most challenge with was the word the “Holy Spirit.” Perhaps for the sole reason that I am raised as a Muslim. The Holy Bible calls the Holy Spirit as one of the trinity but, I always thought of it as an Inner Being dwells within us.
To me, it’s the non-physical part of me that longs to communicate with me. All I had to do was to ask for His help. This fact was much more visible to me when I reworked the whole manuscript for the final and fourth times and let my Inner-Being (Holt Spirit) guide me every step of the way.

Then when the title The Original Sin came into my mind, it hit me like the lightening. Wham! It literally knocked me down for the count. The reason is that the true meaning of the story of Adam and Eve had been running through my mind for more than 10 years. And, then, I just let my Inner Being (Holy Spirit) dictate me what to write. I got on my laptop  computer and the words just began to flow like a stream of a river.

My first manuscript was not quite consistent with A Course in Miracles. So I reworked the whole manuscript the second time but, I seemed to talk about my own ego more and how great I am and have accepted the Atonement for myself.
At the suggestion of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, I agreed to rework the whole manuscript the third time but, I was still present a view of accepting the Atonement that is different from the course’s.  That is when I decided to let the Holy Spirit (Inner Being) speak through me. And, the rest, as they often say, is history.

Yes, it’s quite true that I did have to struggle when I first started to write and set down to write several times, only to succeed on my fourth attempt. I quit several times but I was always drawn beck to A Course in Miracles.

But, you know what? In some mysterious ways, my every failed attempt was actually a step closer to what I was created to write. Sometimes, I imagine, that perhaps, writing this book was the reason that I was born. I think that I must have agreed with my Creator God to devote 30+ struggling with the material to come up with a short book.

The point I am trying to convey here is that it took me 30+ years of hard work to compile this material and you can not except to comprehend the message in this book in just 30 minutes. You must have non-judgmental and un-biased approach while ready it.

All those who will get the message quickly will be the ones who read it as You did while reviewing it for the content: Read a few pages at a time and stop and think about what is being read.When you will finish reading (and thinking) you will know that everything you read is true and make a lot of sense and now practice it on a daily basis.
From my 30+ years of extensive, real-life, practical experience in practicing these very same ideas, I can tell you first hand, that you learn only what you want to learn.

Remember, the Master Teacher is always within you (call It the Holy Spirit of an Inner Being) and you can learn from It anytime, through anyone and anything. This is the truth and you can trust. Really, you are your own teacher. Choose to learn from within.

A Course in Miracles says: “As you teach so will you learn. If that is true, and it is true indeed, do not forget that what you teach is teaching you. And what you project or extend you believe,” (ACIM- Text Chapter 6, III.2)
What, exactly, then, is A Course in Miracles? The summary introduction, which, appears it its Text is quite succinct and brief. It reads:

“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all encompassing can have no opposite.”

FQ: There are several books that have been published that one can refer to in conjunction with ACIM. Have you found any of them to be of use to you? Any suggestions?

As I mention in my book The Original Sin (pg. 92), that in the last twenty-five years or so there has been a proliferation of material that is claimed to be inspired A Course in Miracles. There are basically two edition of ACIM. One is the Original Edition and the other is the Edited and improved version of A Course in Miracles.

There are several organizations throughout the United States of America and the United Kingdom that are devoted exclusively to the teachings of either the Original edition or the Edited and more improved version of ACIM.

For example, Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, California and the Society of A Course in miracles in OMAHA, Nebraska teaches only the Original version of ACIM, while the Foundation for Inner Peace in Mill Valley, CA and the Foundation of ACIM in Temecula, CA teaches only the edited version of ACIM. My book The Original Sin is based on the edited and improved edition of A Course in Miracles. 

As I mention in my book (pg. 64), “it goes without saying that I do not want people to feel guilty if they buy or read the other versions. People should do whatever they want, as long as it is not harmful, and contrary to what some might say, there is no “Pops of the Course.” So whatever you do with the course, what is most important is that it is done without anger, judgment, and feeling or unfair treatment.”
Speaking for myself, some of the most useful books and the website in putting this philosophy together were the followings:

The Holy Bible
The Holy Qu’ran
The Holy Tora
A Course in Miracles (Edited Edition)
Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles –
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick –FACIM
A Talk given On A Course in Miracles –
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick – FACIM
Absence of felicity – Dr. Kenneth Wapnick

FQ: I for one had never heard of ACIM. Can you tell us the origin of the course and Dr. Helen Schucman and Dr. William Thetford’s part in its creation?

I thought you never ask. This is the one question that is most often asked about ACIM. So let me try and give you the best answer I know of.
I believe that A Course in Miracles, is probably, one of the most influential books of all times in pointing the way to attaining peace—to fulfilling your ultimate destiny in life.  In my personal opinion, there has never been another book like it, nor ever can be.
Dr. Helen Schucman and Dr. William Thetford an unlikely team to scribe A Course in Miracles. As career-oriented psychologists working closely together at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical center, they were attempting to develop and strengthen the center’s psychology Department.
While their professional interests and goals for the department were compatible with each other, their personalities certainly were not. Helen’s overly critical judgmental stance was just the opposite of Bill’s quiet and more passive-aggressive personality and they clashed constantly.

 It was therefore a rather startling event when, in the spring of 1965, Dr. William Thetford delivered an impassionate speech to Dr. Helen Schucman in which, he said he was fed up with the competition, aggression, and anger which permeated their professional lives, extended into their attitude and relationships, and pervaded the department.
He concluded and told her that “there must be a better way” of living—in harmony rather than discord—and he was determined to find it. Equally startling, and to their mutual surprise, Helen agreed with Bill and enthusiastically volunteered to join him in a collaborated search to find this other better way.
It was as if Helen had waited all her life for this moment, which triggered a series of internal experiences for her that carried on through the summer. These included heightened dream imagery, psychic episodes, and visions appearing more and more frequently to her both visual and auditory expressions.

(For further details about Dr. Helen Schucman and Dr. William Thetford’s collaborative work in the creation of A Course in Miracles, please visit:
I believe that it will be unfair not to mention about the tremendous contributions of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick—A clinical psychologist. Dr. Kenneth Wapnick’s association with the Course dates back to 1972, when he met Dr. Helen Schucman and Dr. William Thetford in New York City shortly after the scribing of the Course was completed.
He then worked closely with Helen in editorially organizing the Course manuscript and preparing it for publication. For details log on:
FQ: 9) How do you further your knowledge of ACIM concepts? Are you a member of a Foundation, a study group, or are you mostly the type of person who prefers to study in private? If anyone is interested how can they learn more about ACIM ?

You have asked another excellent question: How do I further my knowledge of ACIM concepts? It’s amazing how well you have truly grasped the essence of my message. Before I share with you how I further my knowledge of ACIM concepts, please allow me to share what A Course in miracles says:
“This Course is a beginning, not an end…No more specific lessons are assigned, for there is no more need for them. Henceforth, hear but the Voice for God…He will direct your efforts, telling you exactly what to do, how to direct your mind, and when you come to Him in silence, asking for His sure guidance and His certain words.”
(ACIM- Workbook for Students, pg. 487).
The key phrase here is: How to direct your mind, and when you come to Him in silence, asking for His sure guidance and His certain Words. And, that’s exactly what I do. As I go about my daily business, I try me level to direct my mind to stay in the right-minded thought system and ask for His sure guidance in everything I do.

I try to see how long I can keep a mind without any thoughts (no-mind), this is when my mind is blank. I try to shift from worldly thoughts to having a blank mind. It took me 30+ to keep my own mind under my own full control at all times and at all costs.
While practicing the 365 ideas in the workbook for student of ACIM, I stumble upon the ‘secret’ of the 11 second rule. I found that if I can keep the mind blank (without any thoughts) for just 11 seconds at a time, I can instantly connect with the One-Minded thought system. The Course refers to this an awakening process.

But, perhaps, the most remarkable part of the mind-conditioning process is that if I can hold the mind blank for 61 seconds (just over a minute) then, I become one with the Oneness of God. Metaphysically speaking, its called the presence of God, or united with God and going home where our true reality (spirit) dwells. I know it’s very heavy stuff.

Please understand that I don’t tell you all this to impress you or to brag. I tell you this because I have experienced it and experienced with it. To get your proof here’s all you need to do.

Try to deliberately monitor your own thoughts for 11 seconds. You’ll notice that the moment you start to observe your own mind, all thoughts in your mind will begin to subside and eventually leave the mind.
This is a monumental key to becoming an awaken person. This is what gives you the proof positive that you are an awareness behind your thinking and not any part of that thinking. Once you get your very first glimpse of the separation of thinking and awareness, you, too, will know that it is absolutely true.
Skepticism in connection with all new ideas, is characteristic of all human beings. But if you follow the instructions outlined, your skepticism will soon be replaced by belief, and this, in turn, will soon become crystallized into absolute faith.

In response to your question about becoming a supporting member of a Foundation or joining a study group is a personal choice. There are certainly hundreds if not thousands of study groups for ACIM that are now being conducted in the United States and in the United Kingdom. There are also mentor program available where you pay a fee.

Speaking for myself, I am mostly the type of person who prefers to study in private. The reason is that the ACIM concepts must be experienced by your self. It’s just like I could not tell you how a mango tastes like no matter how hard I tried, until I let you taste one.

Here’s what the Course teaches:
It’s Holy Spirit’s function to teach you how this Oneness is
experienced, what you must do, where you should go to do it.”
(ACIM- Text (Org. Ed) Chapter 24:10
If anyone is interested in learning more about A Course in Miracles, I would suggest that they contact the following organizations and request their free literature.
(1) Foundation for A Course in Miracles. 41397 Buecking Drive, Temecula, CA 92590
(2) Foundation for Inner Peace. P.O. Box 598, Mill Valley, CA 94942
(3) Community Miracle Center. 2269 market Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
(4) Course in Miracle Society, 7602 Pacific Street, Suite 200, Omaha, Nebraska 68114
(5) Miracle Distribution Center, 3947 E. La Palma Avenue, Anaheim, CA 92807
Here are the websites:

FQ: Lastly, you only briefly make mention that you are the founder of the “International Mind-Conditioning Society, an organization devoted exclusively to the teaching of the working principles of the human mind.” Perhaps you’d like to tell your readers about the spiritual philosophy behind this group and the work you do.

I guess, you left the best question for last. This is the question that is close to my heart. It makes my very happy that you did think of my life-work for which God gave me the opportunity to live this life as a human being.

Nature and spirituality have fallen victim of blind faith in science and technology. We share real stories about real people more than big think pieces about abstract concepts. The International Mind-Conditioning Society is more interested in solutions than problems, we pursue ideas that have a positive twist.

Spiritual masters have pointed out that in the final analysis, there would be a new heavens and the new earth. This society believes that the new heavens refer to a new form of government that is run and controlled by the intelligent optimists living on earth.
The International mind-Conditioning Society is devoted to trying to find like-minded people from other places and other points of view share their prospective and opinion on issues that matter most to them.

There is no more issue that is as important to us as teaching humanity the new AWAKENING PROCESS which is the separation of thinking of the mind and your awareness of that thinking. In other words, you are not your own mind. This is the spiritual philosophy behind this group.

Everyone carries on an internal dialogue called the “self-talk” with themselves at the rate of 150 to 300 words a minute. This works out to an astonishing 45,000 to 51,000 thoughts a day and 1.5 millions thoughts a month.

In fact research and study show that an average person cannot go more than 11 seconds without some kind of self-talk with himself or herself, unless of course, of course, he or she happens to be an experienced practitioner of the deep meditation, and even then the self-talk usually takes over. Such is the tremendous power of the self-talk.

To our knowledge, there isn’t a person alive on the planet earth that can deliberately quiet the conscious thinking mechanism of the mind at all times. The work we do is devoted exclusively to the teaching of the working principle of the human mind.

I struggled with my mind for 30+ years trying to control its incessant compulsive mind-activity we call thinking. The sad thing is that 80 to 90 percent of mind-activity is usually negative, useless, repetitive, harmful and involuntary.

The human mind is a superb instrument an excellent tool if used rightly, but it can become very destructive if used wrongly. The term “mind-conditioning” is something I coined after I became interested in spirituality and metaphysics due to a failure in a business venture in the Middle-East.
 I read every book on the subject that I could get my hands on (700+ books to be exact).

The subject of the ‘mind-power’ particularly intrigued me. I as fascinated with the working principles of the human mind. In fact, in 1984, it became a part of my doctoral degree thesis at the University of Metaphysics in Los Angeles, California USA.
I devoted countless thousands of hours in studying the working of the mechanism of the human mind. In 2001, I wrote and self-published a book: Working Principles of the Human Mind (available at

The response to this book was over whelming. Not a text filled with pages of theory, but down to earth facts based on my 30+ years of extensive, real-life, practical experience in practicing these ideas as outlined in this book.

Apparently, this is exactly the kind of information people all over the world were seeking. That is when I was intuitively inspired to share this knowledge with the world and thus, the birth of the International Mind-Conditioning Society. 

The goal of the International Mind-Conditioning Society is two fold.
First. To make people aware of the “celestial speed up” prophecy.  At the beginning of the dictation Helen (the scriber of the ACIM) was given an explanation for what was happening. She was told that there was a ‘celestial speed-up’ (pg. 21)
People were in great deal of trouble and some are being asked to contribute their particular abilities toward this celestial speed up. Helen and Bill were only two of many who were contributing their particular abilities toward this plan.

My contribution of my own particular ability is in the form of the book The Original Sin. This book is more of a mind-training program rather than any spiritual philosophy. It teaches the true meaning of the story of Adam and Eve.

It explains that the only ‘lack’ we have in this world is the correction of separation from God. But, mostly, it shares my thoughts on A Course in Miracles and my own journey with it. It talks about the meaning of the three thought systems, and how they effect us.
The funny thing is that the three thought systems to which I refer have been mentioned no fewer than a hundred times through out this book.

They have not been directly named, for it seem to work more successfully when they are merely uncovered and left it sight for those who are ready, and searching for them.

If you are ready to put the three thought systems to use, you will recognize them at least once in every chapter. I wish I might feel privileged to tell you how you will know if you are ready, but that would deprive you of much of the benefit you will receive when you make the discovery in your own way.
As a final word of preparation, before you begin the first chapter, may I offer one brief suggestion which may provide a clue by which you may know if you are ready. It is this:

“We teach what we learn and we learn what we teach.”
In the final analysis, teachers and pupils are virtually the same, not in form certainly but, in content indeed. To the untrained mind, this fact is very difficult to grasp. Once you truly understand this, you become one of God’s teachers.

Speaking for myself, God’s teachers are those who want to demonstrate the three thought systems to themselves first by living them, on a daily basis. They are the ones who have ‘chosen’ the Holy Spirit (Inner Being) as their internal teachers and thus, have made the right-minded choice.

Second. The International mind-Conditioning Society is now actively looking for like-minded people from the United States of America and throughout the free world to share their prospective and opinion that matter most to them.

We need your help! Help us spread the true meaning of the story of Adam and Eve, and the role of the serpent—your adversary the Satan. Your advice, tips, suggestions and resources are needed to make this mission to serve mankind possible.
All those reading audience of this Interview are urged to help us spread the word until it becomes a common household name. If you find yourself drawn to this message, it is a clear sign that you are ready to become one of God’s teachers.

If interested then, please view the video in the website: And then, go to Enter the word BOOKS in the department section and write the name, Mushtaq H. Jaafri in the search box and hit go.
If you like the book, The Original Sin and want to purchase it, you will receive a free gift worth $20.00 if you send us the receipt copy of the purchase of the book from You will also receive free a beautiful colorful certificate of participation in the International Mind-Conditioning Society to express our appreciation.

Mail your book purchase receipt to receive your free gift ($20.00 value) to:
Mushtaq Jaafri, Dept. Feathered Quill
919 Sonora Ct. San Dimas, CA 91773- 1488
(Limited time offer until supply lasts)
To learn more about The Original Sin: Correcting the Perception of the Separation from God please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Author Interview with Dr. Mushtaq H. Jaafri - Part 1

Today we're talking with Dr. Mushtaq H. Jaafri, author of The Original Sin: Correcting the Perception of the Separation from God.

FQ: A Course in Miracles has been around for many years spreading its message. Can you tell us when you first became familiar with the Course?
I’ve been familiar with A Course in Miracles for many years, but I became a full time
student of the Course in the summer of 2009. For many years I thought that A Course in Miracles was a Bible-based study and you have to be a devoted Christian to study the Course. And, that actually became a stumbling block for me.

The A Course in Miracles is not just another religion or a dogma. It’s a path to healing our lives right here right now but, in order to heal we must first understand the transformative methods of healing the mind from its perception of separation from God and accepting the Atonement for himself or herself.

I felt that telling the true meaning of the story of Adam and Eve, (in my own words) and the role of the serpent will help us realize that a sense of separation from God is really the only ‘lack’ we need to correct.

Understanding the relationship of the three thought systems, and applying the right-minded thought system restores the mind to its true position as the learner. The miracle is the mean. Atonement is the principle and healing is the result.

Finally, let me confess that, through a vision of lighthouse shinning its brilliant white light into a sea near by, I was drawn to the Foundation for A Course in Miracles in Temecula, California. I met Dr. Kenneth Wapnick during one of his live seminars at the Foundation for ACIM.
I found Dr. Wapnick to be one of the most non-judgmental persons I have ever known. When I told him about my vision of the lighthouse shinning its light, he said that it was the logo of the Foundation’s quarterly newsletter.

ACIM teaches that when two minds join together for the same cause, it becomes the Will of God. I sometimes, indulge in my imagination to see what kind of a place this world would be if everyone understood the three thought systems and tried to recognize when their minds were blank, or have a mind without any thoughts.

 I spent 30+ years trying to control my own mind by controlling my thinking. That’s what I stumbled upon the concept of having a blank mind.

ACIM says: “Beneath your words are written the words of God. When your words have been erased, you will see His. That is the ultimate purpose of these exercises.”

FQ: You have apparently looked toward Dr. Kenneth Wapnick for some guidance in your work. How has he helped you in your journey toward inner peace? What kind of guidance did he offer up to you?

This is an excellent question so I will try to answer to the best of my recollection.
Most of my life, I’ve always sensed myself as if there is a part of me that is non-physical and longs to communicate with me. It wasn’t until I became a full-time devoted student of A Course in Miracles that I began to realize that non-physical part of me is the Holy Spirit (The Inner Being) that dwells inside each one of us.

I knew for sure that this Inner Being (Holy Spirit) within me isn’t an idea, an abstract force, or a principle, but it is a real person that dwells within us and Loves us and wants to help us.
When I shared my inner feelings with Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, he totally sympathized with me as if he too could recognize, relate, assimilate and apply whatever I was saying to  him. I felt very comfortable with him as if he was my teacher and mentor and I was his pupil and student.
I started to communicate with him through correspondence. He usually answered all my  letters the very next day. This went on for one full year. He always encouraged me to keep smiling and don’t ever  give up on my dream of sharing your thoughts about the Course and journey with A Course in Miracles.

I told him about my desire to publish a book about my thoughts on ACIM and my journey with it. He wholeheartedly agreed with me and even agreed to read the manuscripts for the content only. He offered guidance in reviewing the cover designs.

And, my own journey with A Course in Miracles started. The glorious journey took over one year of 24/7 studies. I struggled with the Course for about a year when I started. Perhaps for the reason the my ‘ego’ was always in my way telling me that I was nobody and no one would ever review  my book.

Once I asked the Holy Spirit (My Inner Guide) for help, and decided to apply the right-minded thought system and avoiding the wrong-minded thought system that is when I completed the book “in just two weeks” I called this a miracle.

I believe that Dr. Kenneth Wapnick had a profound impact on my mind during my journey toward inner peace. While visiting Dr. Wapnick in his live seminar in Temecula, CA. I purchased his CD titled: I want the peace of God. It was a candid discussion of A Course in Miracles -Workbook for Students – Lesson 185). Here’s direct quote:

No one who truly seeks the peace of God can fail to find it. Far he merely asks
 that he deceive himself no longer by denying to himself what is God’s Will.
The peace of God is yours.”

FQ: Many people will be a bit confused when they first read about the metaphysical concept of ‘no-mind’ and the presence of God. It is not an easy concept to grasp nor implement. Can you tell us a bit about this concept and how you felt when you first recognized you were able to shift from worldly thoughts to having a blank mind?

You are absolutely right that the metaphysical concept of ‘no-mind’ and the presence of God is a bit confusing. I also, do wholeheartedly agree with you that it is not an easy concept to grasp nor implement.

Speaking for myself, I struggled with them for many years before I could totally comprehend the ‘no-mind’ and the presence of God concepts to my own satisfaction. The funny thing is that both of these metaphysical concepts are deceptively simple, but at the same time intensely completed. They are simple but, not easy to implement.

It all started back in the fall of 1976, when I suddenly stumbled upon a ‘secret’ that I could control my own mind simply by controlling my own thinking. As you may have noticed that there is always an internal dialogue or ‘self-talk’, if you will, that going on 24/7 in your own.
You have absolutely no control what-so-ever over this mind-chatter that goes on every day, 7 days a week , 365 days a year after year until you die. You cannot stop this self-talk of the mind no matter how hard you try. Why? Well, for one thing the mind is engineered to work all the time.

Just like the human body needs food to survive, the very same way the human mind needs food for its survival also. And guess, what is the food that the mind feeds upon? The food that the human mind needs to survive is none other that our own thoughts.

Just think of it! The human mind feeds only upon our own thoughts. And, its not very fussy either, It will feed upon your good thoughts as well as bad thoughts But, it must feed upon your thoughts.

So, all I had to do was to control my mind by controlling my own thinking. I became so intrigued with the simplicity of the ‘mind-operation; that I decided to devote 30+ years trying to implement this ‘secret’ in my daily life. Then, in 1982 his extensive, real-life and practical experience became a part of doctoral degree thesis at the University of Metaphysic in Los Angeles, California.

In a psychic nut shell, the ‘no-mind’ concept simply means that the moment you start to observe internal dialogue or the self-talk of the mind, you’ll notice that all mind-activity will suddenly begin to subside and eventually stop.

Metaphysically speaking it’s called a mind without any thoughts. In the East, it is referred to as a ‘no-mind’ because there is no mind-activity as if the mind is idle or dead. Eventually the mind-chatter, we call ‘thinking’ returns and the mind is in control again.

Another interesting thing about the mind-operation I learned was that about 80 -90 percent of this mind-chatter is usually not only useless and repetitive, but most importantly this self-talk of the mind is either about something in the past or an anticipation in the future but, never about the present moment.

Spiritually speaking, when the mind is dwelling in the past or future, we can say that for all practical purposes, the mind is not thinking of anything useful to us in the present moment. So that is when I coined the term having a blank mind.

The moment you recognize that you are able to shift from worldly thoughts to having a blank mind, it’s a feeling you never get tired of. It is our God-given right and privilege to take full and complete possession of our own minds. The mind was given to us to use and not to other way around. It can only be experienced that’s why it hard to prove anything.

One of the biggest rewards of having a mind without thoughts at all times is that suddenly you begin to use the right-minded thought system, and begin to accept the Atonement for yourself and heal the mind from its perception of separation from God which is the only
‘lack’ we really need to correct.

The moment the mind is under your full control and not thinking of the past or in the anticipation of the future that is when you start to dwell more and more in the present moment where God is, and in time, you begin to communicate with Him through the Holy Spirit. No one can prove this because you have to experience it for yourself.

In all fairness, let me confess that not until I became a devoted full-time student of A Course in Miracles that I truly understood the concepts of ‘no-mind’ and the presence of God. Frankly, nothing has influenced my own life more than practicing the 365 idea of the workbook for students section of A Course in Miracles.

Finally, let me say this, your determination to shift from the wrong-minded to right-minded thought system will allow you to look at the spiritual side of yourself. You will be able to see through your physical body your own spiritual individuality.

If someone had told me that someday, I will be an author one of the most intensely complex teachings that would be no more possible for me than my going to the moon. But, you have reviewed the content of my book and I believe that you agree with me that the content came from a Higher Source and not from my own intelligence.

I am sure that at times you must have felt that you were reading from another book and when you finally finished reading (and think) you realized that how these two books weave themselves into one book.

As you know, this book is not an easy book to read and you yourself were only able to read a few pages at a time as you had to stop and think about the material. This was quite intentional because book urges you to ‘stop and think’. The book is trying to force you to experience for yourself the concepts of ‘no-mind’ and the presence of God.

FQ: You state that “in essence, the separation never occurred because we have links that can unite us with God and takes us home where our true reality (spirit) dwells.” Your book teaches us how to stay in the right-mind, but what challenges have you faced in trying to do this yourself?

I am glad that you asked this question. It shows that you read every page of this book thoroughly. Proper understanding of the answer to this one question is the main key to correcting the perception of separation from God. It also teaches how to stay in the right-minded thought system at will by avoiding the wrong-mined thought system.

On page 20 of my book I endeavor to explain that in essence, the separation never occurred because the moment the separation seemed to occur God placed an Inner Being or the Holy Spirit in us, which undid the separation.

If you remember nothing else, just remember this. The key idea in this Course is that the separation never occurred because we have links that can unite us with God and takes us home where our true reality (spirit) dwells.

By links I mean the Holy Spirit and the acceptance of the Atonement and of course by staying in the right-minded system and avoiding the wrong-minded thought system at all times and at all costs are all links that ca unite us with God and takes us home where our true reality (spirit) dwells.

The way I use the word ‘home’ here, simply refers to the space between the two levels of the mind. In the East it is called the gap of ‘no-mind’ (mind without thoughts). This is our true home where our true reality (Spirit) dwells. I call the space having a blank mind. To the degree you are able to have a blank mind is the degree you are experience the peace of God. This is in essence, the aim of my living here, the end I seek. My purpose in life.

Speaking for myself, I was willing to sacrifice anything and everything including my possessions and even life itself but, not my God-given right and the privilege to ‘choose’ to stay in my right mind. That’s how determined I was to never give up my right.

That’s how determined I was to never ever let go of power to control my own mind by simply controlling my own thinking. It’s a feeling you never get tired of. You feel one with nature, all things living and the whole universe. But, you know what? The funny thing is that you can not prove this by any tangible way but this ‘state-of-mind’ has to be experienced first hand by yourself.

A Course in Miracles teaches that only through a revelatory experience can we comprehend the truth about the split mind’s perception of separation from God and the Holy Spirit’s plan of Atonement to undo this error.

Let me be perfectly honest with you and tell you that it is not easy to stay in the right-mind at all times. We live in a very negative world. Everyone will try to pull you down to their levels. My own biggest challenge was learning to forgive in all situations.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Friday Finds on Sunday!

I didn't want to wait till next Friday to share my two finds from this weekend.

I was in Boston yesterday and, while browsing in the "Bostonian Society Museum Shop," found (or more aptly, re-discovered) Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  I LOVE this book.  The book was originally published in 1941 and is about the ducks living on the Boston Common.  It's a sweet story, with fabulous drawings by the author (all in brown pencil - no bright, multi-colored pictures).  The drawings have a very old-fashioned feel - check out the cars in the pictures! - which I really got a kick out of.  The story itself is timeless.  So, if you've never read the book, or haven't seen it in a long time, check it out.  Oh, and if you go to Amazon to purchase, be careful about buying used copies.  Because the book is so old, used copies apparently can be old, creaky, smelly, etc.  The copy I bought is brand new.

How come I get free books sent to me all the time and yet I still love to go into a book store and grab (um, not literally, I do pay for them!) a few books?  I'm like a kid in a candy store.  Anyway, I found this one today.  It'll take you five minutes to read, ten if you go slowly.  But the pictures are priceless.  There's a cat and puppy version too.  Look for all three.  These are perfect, inexpensive stocking stuffers.  If you love dogs, you're gonna fall in love with the cute canines in this book!

Reviewer's Tip - Right Justification

We get a lot of self-published books at Feathered Quill and many of them are wonderful books that are right up there with books published by the "main-stream" NYC publishers.  But some of them still need a bit of work....  if you're doing the layout for your book yourself, PLEASE remember that book text is right justified!  This is the standard format.  Some self-publishers, whether because they don't realize right justification is standard, or they're trying to be different,  either left justify the text or center it (yes, we've had some books that centered ALL the text, all the way through the book!).  All  I can say is "DON'T!"

Don't try to be different, don't stray from the norm, don't ignore the standard format of right justification.  Besides giving an amateurish look to your book, it's hard on readers' eyes.  Yes, we do notice it.  So, if you want to compete with the "Big Boys," remember to right justify your text!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted

Here's what came in for review this week. See if there's something here to interest you. Then stop back in a week or two and read the review.

This week, we're including a brief description with each book. Enjoy.

Why photograph horses? Because, in the words of author Carol Walker, they fill our hearts and capturing them on film or in digital images expresses that relationship. We want to catch and hold and show their spirit, their tremendous joy in living, their unique personalities, and of course, their incomparable beauty. And we want the quality of our images to honor our glorious subjects.

Flight in February is a mix of two stories – a prison-escape adrenalin-throbber and a bitter espionage story. The lead character is the downtrodden U.S. deputy marshal, Henry Scott, who is a sort of Willy Loman with a badge. The escaped convict is Marcus Strenk, and I can assure you he is no Willy Loman; just witness his story-opening escape from maximum security. Strenk leaves behind a dozen paintings that fall into a connoisseur’s hands and are soon widely acclaimed. The connoisseur uses the publicity to throw a monkey wrench into the hunt for Strenk.

The heartwarming story of the author and her husband who have rescued, adopted and rehabilitated over forty injured, abandoned, neglected, and abused dogs. The book features beautiful color photos of the author and each member of her canine family.

In America the Edible, Travel Channel host Adam Richman tackles the ins and outs of American cuisine, demonstrating his own unique brand of culinary anthropology. Believing that regional cuisine reveals far more than just our taste for chicken fried steak or 3-way chili, Richman explores the ethnic, economic, and cultural factors that shape the way we eat—and how food, in turn, reflects who we are as a nation. Richman uses his signature wit and casual charm to take youon a tour around the country,explaining such curiosities as why bagels are shaped like circles, why fried chicken is so popular in the South, and how some of the most iconic American food—hot dogs, fries, and soda—are not really American at all. Writing with passion, curiosity, and a desire to share his knowledge, he includes recipes, secret addresses for fun and tasty finds, and tips on how to eat like a local from coast to coast.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Author Interview with Carol Piner

Today we're talking with Carol Piner, author of Evidence of Insanity.

FQ: What made you decide to write a memoir and how did your friends/family react when you told them about your plans?

Everyone is calling the book a memoir. Perhaps they are right. I didn't mean for it to be one since I had so much fun embellishing certain parts that I felt I could play with. Now, I am not sure. But, remember, it is not strictly the truth and nothing but the truth. 90% is, perhaps. Does that make it a memoir?
I decided to write it because as I was growing up, I realized that everybody in town knew my Daddy, Uncle and Granddaddy as hellraisers, and idolized them for it. I also realized as time passed that Mama had disappeared to them. She worked 10 hours a day, got increasingly drunk when she got home and went to bed. No one knew her anymore except her children and they became more and more cynical about her. It was like the Mama I knew had died. But, she hadn't. They had just given up on her. I wanted people to remember her. I decided if I wrote a book, and if people liked it, they would remember her because I would make sure they did. That way, I didn't have to worry after I died because as long as someone liked the book, there was a memory of her there. I had done something.

I was also encouraged by two people I worked with. One, in particular, was Pauly Brown. She would encourage me to write some, then would take what I wrote and go into her office. I would sit and wait. Then, I would hear it. She would be in there laughing. I would smile and keep writing. She had a lot to do with the book getting done. That, and real estate going into the tank. I sure didn't have anything else to do.

As for the family's reaction, I had waited long enough to tell our story. I truly didn't want to hurt my Uncle's children, but suddenly, Mama, Daddy, Jimmy, my Uncle, Grandaddy, Grandmama, Aunt Elly, even Manie were gone. Good grief. I really waited for Mama to go. I knew it would be too painful for her. My Uncle's four children and my Mama's four children all knew the stories. They had to listen to them all their life. Now, it was going to be our turn. I was free from restraint. I no longer cared what anybody thought. I seldom had anyway. These were not stories people didn't know and felt free to repeat to anyone who would listen. We were the talk of the town. People couldn't wait to tell me about the antics of the male members of my family. Neither my Daddy or any of them felt any shame, why should I? The people who repeated the stories felt no shame. Why should I? I was never told a story about my family that the story-teller didn't love telling. I thought they were funny; some of them. Why be sad and grumpy about it? Turn it around. Laugh it off. Shout it out!

Both my sisters loved it. Yes, both of them. I told you we all had a sense of humor. We also recognized reality. They were surprised that I did it, of course, but they were very supportive and still are. Thanks, sissers.

My friends are used to this sort of thing from me. If we were at work, grouped together, or at a party, someone would look at me and ask me to tell a story. Off I'd go. I'd tell some of the stories you read in the book...the funny ones. We would howl. It was all for fun. If I stopped, they would make me tell another one, because there were always people who hadn't heard them before. They'd gather the new ones around and say things like, "You have to hear this? This is about her actual family!" I got a kick out of their enjoyment. Sometimes people would ask for their hitting the chicken with the hose...They would all say I needed to write a book. Surprise! Here it is. Now, all they have to do is read the whole story, not just the funny parts. That is the real story.

FQ: You include some very personal things about yourself and your family inEvidence of Insanity. Was it a hard decision to include such things?

Was it hard to include personal things? Did I do that? Oh no, it was not hard. Not ever. Here again. Shout it out! Believe me, we had a master's degree in humiliation. Personal things were always out on the table, so to speak. I would never hold back if I could have a good time and I had a good time writing the book. And, coming up with the name. I had a ball with the name. You have no idea how much embarrassment I can take. Sometimes if I were on the phone, telling a story, I would get so hysterical I couldn't go on. I enjoy these stories because they no longer hurt me. Why not include them? I am not who I was as a child. No one bothered to filter them out for my sake or take into consideration the feelings of those involved, why should I? Am I angry? No. Not anymore. It is what it is.

The personal things were what made it my story. My sisters have different memories. Very different. This is mine. It is how I saw it. If someone saw it differently, fine...write a book. Someone asked me was everything in the book true. Again, no. But it is how I saw it and how I felt it. If I changed something for fun or effect, it is how I saw it. If something was said, I wanted to show you how sad, not just say it. The same was true to the humor. Why laugh when you can laugh out loud? As I said in the book, I "had at it". It was fun to poke fun at the psychiatrist in college. He should be so lucky as to get a patient like me. Every time my sister goes to a new psychiatrist, they think they have died and gone to heaven. My familiy was a very interesting study. And, we all knew it.

FQ: Have you gotten any feedback from those who were mentioned in the book? What sort of comments did they give you?

Actually I have received positive review after another. No one is more surprised than I am. I cannot tell you how uplifting the whole experience has been. I have a file where I keep printed copies of all the wonderful things people have said about my book. I read it constantly. I cannot believe it. People actually have read the hard parts and they still like the story. Amazing. I will print these comments as long as they keep coming. It made it all worthwhile. I have copies going all over the U.S. now. One of my classmates in Egypt has it. There are people who have read it and loved it, told their friends about it and it propagates. I have people who have sold 25-30 copies of the book to their friends, for me. They are that sure their friends will like it. Facebook is unbelievable. All the blogs I have are stores of information about people's responses. All good. I now have a new best friend because she liked the book so much. She carried it with her over 6000 miles, reading it the second time.

Some people has said it must have taken guts to write it. Darling, it took guts to live it. Writing it was a snap. I had someone tell me I was courageous. I wanted to turn around in my seat to see who she was talking to. Courageous? Mama would get a kick out of that.

On the serious side, at one book signing, I had a lady tell me she had terminal cancer and was facing surgery the next Monday. She said she was going to take my book to the hospital with her because a friend had told her how good it was. She swore she would not die without finishing it. What do you say to someone like that? What a compliment. If she reads this, you know who you are. Please let me know how you are doing? If something happened, I met her husband, too. Please let me know by posting it on my web site.

I had been pretty direct about my feelings for my Aunt Elly. I met the wife of Aunt Elly's grandson at one of the book signings. I tensed right up. She loved it. She talked to her husband and he said it was that bad at the restaurant. I was not making it up or trying to make it worse. I couldn't have. I found myself on the phone with Jamie, one of Aunt Elly's granddaughters. She loved it and got it for everyone else in the family. I have great reviews on Amazon, one from you. You will be glad to know I cleaned up the typos and you were right, there were more. However, there are going to be people who don't like it. I am waiting for that shoe to drop. I'd be a fool not to.

Thanks to her continnued efforts, I reconnected with Christie, the room-mate in Raleigh after 37 years. It was like we had never been states apart all these years. She kept trying until she found me on Facebook. I was only there because of the feedback from the book. I was on the phone with Cap't Jim Willis to get his address so I could send him a book. He knows more stories than anybody, about everybody, when he suddenly said, "Emily wants to talk to you." Emily? It was the girl from my childhood with whom I would go crabbing. She never left. I had been home since 1991, and never knew she was here. All because of the book.

A few people have said they thought it was sad. Please don't do that. It's not meant to be sad. I know there are sad parts, but life has sad parts. Who of us have avoided that? I have had two tell me it was cathartic. Now, you tell me...I live in the same town. I have the same last name. I am surrounded by the same people who talked about us all their lives and they still are...What is it you think is cathartic? I didn't recently get my story out. I have been getting it out every time I told the stories. To me, "cathartic" sounds like something that should be fun, but would probably be considered nasty.

Of all the books sold, I have only received one rebuke. Maybe other people are keeping it to themselves, who knows? Someone who loved my brother thought I was being harsh to him. I know my brother was very popular with a lot of people. He had been kind to a lot of people. I was harsh to him, but I will not revise the book. Unfortunately, brothers and sisters do not communicate on the same scale as friends all the time. I was born into a family where the male was "king". I did not buy into that and I was not going to stand for it. There was no king for me to bow down to. Quite the opposite. Any male in my family was a bull's eye for me to hit. Hard. Did, too. Somehow, she missed how I kept saying no matter what, I loved him. I just stayed mad with him most of the time.

FQ: You don't mince words so for those who you wrote about who had some serious problems (drinking, being abusive, etc), were you hesitant to write about them? To be honestly brutal about them? Have they given you any feedback?

Was I hesitant to write about them...and me? No, why would I be. We grew up in a dog-eat-dog world. Hesitant? I would have rented space on the courthouse steps and read the whole book out loud if given the chance. People like that deserve to be exposed. Starving your own family? If you get up in the morning with the sole purpose of making somebody else miserable, you deserve to be hoisted from the highest pole and hung out there until you learn your lesson. With any luck, it'll take a couple of hundred years. Manners. People have an obligation...let me say it obligation to maintain good manners until they just can't maintain them anymore. Then, manners step aside. You deserve what you have coming. I simply hung them out there, that's all.

Brutally honest? Did you notice any brutality threads running through these stories? I promise you they weren't my threads. They were, however, my stories. I wasn't brutal towards anybody. They used their money, power and status to beat my Mama and I down. I used my ability to type and never forget. That's all. I am not angry, but I had a Mama that people destroyed. I have no intentions of forgetting that. I have used "shock and awe" all my life. It is nothing new to me. Stop me before I forget my manners, please.

FQ: One story that sticks with me is your school prom, which you say you attended barefoot. Would you tell our readers a little about that night?

Who could ever forget their prom? Especially someone like me - a dirt hog. You asked me about being barefoot. Being barefoot was as commonplace for me as being dirty. There is a joy about being from the South with streets that are not paved. With little to no supervision, where a girl can kick a boy's butt from one end of town to the other, with no shoes on. I was always barefoot. My two sisters were bigger so the hand-me-downs didn't work. The money went for cars and alcohol. Shoes and dresses did not appear on the radar anywhere and I didn't care. I hated shoes and I hated dresses. The less I could get away with, the better. The only reason I mentioned being barefoot at the prom was because they were taking pictures. Full body shots. I borrowed a pair from a friend of mine and they looked like kayaks on my feet. I kicked them off.

What I remember about the night of my prom wasn't the lack of shoes. It was the attempted suicide by my Mama that set into motion a complete re-direction of my life. The utter loss of the control I had up to that moment of being able to do what I wanted, with whom I wanted, when I wanted to do it. I learned how the lack of control can take you way-way up and take you way-way down...not to mention being hugely ...... at Mama. Daddy didn't know what a maelstrom was because he never read a book. He learned, though. If you are going to take away my freedom, you will pay. And, he did. Thank you, Mama, for that opportunity. See, good manners. And, thank you, sisser, for being there when I needed you most. Both times.

FQ: Your mom was one tough lady who you write about with love and, at times, frustration. What do you think she'd say if she could read your book?

Mama would laugh until she fell over. We were like trees liable to topple at any time. I tried and tried to convey her complete sense of freedom when it came to showing her feelings. She held nothing back, she would let go. Whether it was laughing, fishing, dancing or crying. The sheer wide openess of her made you look at her with your mouth wide open in amazement. That freedom in her exploded when she was fully present. She spilled over. Her face lit up. The glow filled the room. No one could look away from her because she captured your attention completely. Many, many times she and I would be on the floor, gasping for air, tears running down our faces, about to meet our Maker and ready to go from sheer fun. I could make her fall apart with a quip. She could reduce me to hysterics with a look. Not to mention, throwing that hip out of joint. Women, please do not do that to your children. It's gross. We were a walking, talking comedy act. Too bad the rest of the family wasn't part of it. It was their choice, you know. We chose to be ridiculous.

If Mama read the book, she would tell me I was too hard on this person or that one. She'd be lying and we'd start to laugh because we'd know it. She'd tell me she was sorry for the part she played. To me, the sorry part was a small part. It was hard not to be frustrated when you see someone you love disintegate before your eyes. That was the hard part. She would hate that. But, she would understand the rest of it and be reassured that she did the best job she was capable of, given her circumstances. The hard part? Poo-Poo...get over it. Anybody got a problem with wanting to remember the sparkle in someone's eyes? If so, don't read the book. You'll hate it.

When nobody was looking, we'd grab each other and fall down again. Uncontrollable fun. Can't beat it for a memory. People tell me their mothers were kind, gentle, good meaning women. I respect that. Unfortunately for me, I would have been bored witless. She taught me everything I needed to know to survive, which was her job. In the meantime, I learned I was spawned from one awesomely funny female and I wallowed around in her humor like a drugged duck as long as the Good Lord let me.

FQ: Although you endured some horrible hardships in your life, you maintain an incredibly positive attitude. How do you stay so positive?

Me? Positive? I don't know. I get down like everybody else. But, I have the same ability everybody else has to open a door, and if necessay, close it behind me. I am absolutely not going to sit around and be miserable. From time to time, yes. Like when I lost my office and my friends. That's tough. Like when I sold the business I had been doing for nineteen years for nineteen thousand dollars and owed it all. I find that hard to take. Hard to live with. But, I am not going to dwell on it. Bet on it.

I am capable a finding my happiness. I get a huge kick out of getting on the phone with my oldest sisser, the "bad" one, who is not in a very good state of mind right now.Ten minutes into the call and I either have her in hysterics or she has me screaming with joy over a new story I haven't heard before. Last night she told me something I never expected. She finally, after all this time, admitted what I said about her was true. Fine. Then, like one of us always does, she launched into this new story that grossed me out so much, even though I was laughing, that I rolled off the couch, onto the floor and was begging her to stop. I have an active imagination and she can draw a really good mental image. She really shouldn't do things like that to me. Ew!! Please tell me you didn't do that!

I tell myself my sissers treat me this way because it is the only way they have ever known me..comical. Making yuk. And, it really is me, not just a dress I throw over me. I like myself most like that. When I go way down, I come back up as fast as I possibly can. I do not know how to deal with an unhappy me. I never works out quite right, like it doesn't fit. I am not geared that way. Give me a minute. Just a minute, and I will come back like it never happened. I am not burying it, as some might say. I got it. I am just returning to who I am. If somebody wants to swim through their misery, like an unhappy guppy, go ahead. It's their right and it may be the only way they see themselves. Don't ask it of me. I don't have that much longer to live and I do not intend to do it frowning. Didn't before and I am not going to now. I watch Comedy Central at night all alone. Some people would be lonely. Not me. No one in that audience is having a better time than I am. On the floor. In no time.

FQ: You mention your love of orchids. Would you tell us a little about your current orchid collection?

Ah, orchids. This one is tough. I somehow got a virus in a shipment of orchids last spring. Out of about 250 orchids, I now have only about 100 left. It is incredibly depressing for me, I have to admit. The virus transfers from leaf to leaf and then settles into the roots. You do not know you have a dying plant touching live, healthy ones until it is too late to save both plants. I am no longer in a financial position to replace them. I have stopped it and will do the best I can with what I have. I truly wish you hadn't asked this question. I am having to struggle with the hop into happiness. I love them so much, it is painful to see them go.

However, the good news. I particularly love what is known to most as the "Moth Orchids" , which are phaleanopsis, because of it's shape and spray-like growth. They come in colors from pure, pure white, to deep scarlets, oranges, pinks and fuschias. I love the harlequins which are spotted blooms breed for their beauty and growth patterns. I also love the "prom orchids" which are cattleyas. They range from all sizes and glorious colors including blue. Some of the orchids have the most wonderful fragrances that take over the orchid room for months. Although I lost a lot of the orchids I brought back from Costa Rica, I still have some. I baby them. Heaven forbid, I should lose them all. I have vandas, which grow in deep forest growth and dendrobiums which grow in Thailand. They are what people use to make the flower necklaces in Hawaii.

FQ: While your life is, at times, quite sad, your book is full of humor. Did you originally think about keeping the memoir serious or did you know all along that you'd keep your readers laughing?

As for keeping the book humorous, that was never in question. If I had not succeeded in finding the humor in my life, I would not be me and could not have written it that way. It would have been easy to slosh around in self pity, but I simply felt none. I thank you for thinking the book was funny in spite of the fact that you had to also read the sad parts. I call the book humorous. I call parts of the book sad. There is a true distinction there. Never did I intend for it to be the other way around. If I did, for some, please forgive me. I would have tried harder had I known. I can only count two people who have read the book who thought it was sad. I applaud them their sense of pathos. God loves you. I am exhilarated that so many found the humor over the sadness. You go, guys! I wish more people I know had the ability to find just about anything ridiculous. Things are only as serious as you want to make them, right that moment. Step away from it. Wait a few weeks before you look back. You will wonder what you found so daunting. If not, do humor exercises. Take training. It'll do you good.

FQ: You've had several special dogs over the years. Do you have any now and if so, would you tell us a little about them?

Now, you have overtly chosen to break my heart. No, I do not have a dog. Whimper, whimper. I mentioned that I lost everything and that included the ability to own a home. I rent. I am not allowed a dog. So, o.k. Do I love Shigi and Sasi, my himilayans cats? I should say so. I call Shigi (shy-guy) that because he is. He won't even come to me. But, he's got the prettiest eyes imaginable and the sweetest face, even from a distance. And, he will follow me around and talk to me. Better than some men I've lived with. I know he's happy because I hear him playing at five in the morning. Sometimes he surprises me and walks right up to me, sits in my lap and goes to sleep. But, it has to be his decision. If I brought a dog here, Shigi would disappear and I would never find anything but his bones. Sasi (sassy) is named that because she is. Very, very sassy. She would walk right up to a dog and book sleeping arrangements. She's wide open; in your face. If she wants to be rubbed when I am in bed, she walks right up my chest, knocks my book aside and looks at me like, "You have something better to do." They are brother and sister, (fixed and spayed) and very LONG HAIRED. You have to have a sense of humor to live with all that hair. Shigi owns my love-seat. Ask Lee, Pauly's husband.

Heaven forbid I get a puppy. But, I dream. On the phone with my sister tonight, we were talking about her dog, Honey. The one I would have kept the night I tossed her onto the street. What a great dog! To her, Honey was special, but they are all special. I hope to God and with all I have in me that I will have another dog before I die. Please let me look into those loving eyes once more. It's like looking into their souls. That look they have that says, "I love you. No matter what. No matter when. And, I will love you even if you don't love me back." Oh, and God will you try to make Shigi and Sasi understand? Don't forget, I looked up to you more than once in the book. But, no. I wouldn't get another dog if it upset these cats. They are my sunshine.

To learn more about Evidence of Insanity please visit our website and read the review at:Feathered Quill Book Reviews.