Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

EXCUSE ME, GODDESS, CAN WE TALK? by Sonia Kaleski

My Goodreads and Amazon review (I gave it 5 stars)

Excuse Me Goddess Can We Talk?: New Messages of Love from the Goddess - How to Create Personal and Global Abundance and have Fun with the ProcessExcuse Me Goddess Can We Talk?:
New Messages of Love from the Goddess -
How to Create Personal and Global Abundance and have Fun with the Process

by Sonja Kaleski




Important and Delightful

I'd love to have written this book! It says so much that I would like to tell the world. As I didn’t write it, I'm very glad that Sonja did, and that she did it now.

Being a writer myself, I particularly appreciate the way it is written. It's clear, accessible and entertaining. It's apparent that Sonja writes from her own rich experience, and from quite a deal of study, yet she presents her findings in a very readable manner, without in any way talking down to her readers.

She is unapologetic about the fact that she is describing her beliefs, without any attempt to justify them rationally. She even says at the outset that, for this reason, her book may not be for everyone. Yet I urge the doubters to suspend disbelief and just enjoy. I think they might find they can understand it on other levels, such as a useful set of psychological attitudes. One can personify the Goddess, or one may regard that concept as standing for values which the world greatly needs – at this time more than ever before.

As I got further into the book, I found that she backed up her ideas after all, without even trying. She has been, among other things, teacher, writer, artist, activist, and survivor of domestic abuse. She has also been a great reader, in both spiritual and scientific fields. She illustrates the points she makes with practical, real-life examples from her own experience and that of people she is closely acquainted with.

I too believe that Goddess energy, however we understand it, is vital to us all at this time and into the future. Sonja gives us some readily acceptable ways of understanding it, and shares some simple and even pleasant methods for integrating it into our lives – for instance, through laughter.

Although it is not the book's only focus, she talks a lot about ‘abundance' – a word which puts me off many New Age teachings. Yes, I get it that you don't have to live in poverty to be spiritual, and that financially successful people can do much good with their money – only there are some teachers who make it sound as if you have failed Spirituality 101 if you haven't yet manifested what the world perceives as wealth.

Sonja doesn't fall into this trap. Yes, she does see that prosperity need not contradict spirituality, and she gives some tips on manifesting it – tips full of common sense, rather than merely airy-fairy – but she also understands that there are many kinds of riches. Her interpretation of abundance is that we have whatever our soul most desires and needs. (Those are my words to sum up her views.) It's relative. For some people, abundance may mean huge financial wealth to use philanthropically. For others it may be a modest income and the free time for spiritual pursuits. There are many possibilities, and it's refreshing to read of abundance in broader terms.

This is a book which has the possibility of changing individuals one at a time, in ways that could, collectively, change the world and bring about the golden future we all dream of. It's a real possibility! But self-published books need a lot of word-of-mouth. Therefore, please read it, and please tell other people to read it too.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northrup

My Goodreads review – 

Twelve Years a Slave








Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup


I haven't yet seen the movie, but knowing about that made me curious about the book. I was surprised to realise it is non-fiction; had imagined it to be a novel. Despite being in the language of another place and time, and despite dealing with horrendous subject matter, it is very readable. Northrup writes with honesty, clarity, and surprising fair-mindedness. He was the victim of great injustice, being a free man who was kidnapped into slavery – yet the book also makes it clear the whole institution of slavery was a massive injustice against human beings. We take that as self-evident these days, but there was a time when it was believed in and justified on very spurious grounds. Northrup shows, among other things, how children brought up in such a system take it for granted – the children of the powerful class, that is. The injustice is clear enough to every slave.

Now I would like to see the movie, knowing that in spite of the horrors it deals with there are also some positive aspects. Northrup's own stalwart character is one; and the fact that there were good people who did their best to help him.

Note: I did eventually see the movie, and I thought it did a very good job of transferring the book to screen. The main actor, Chiwetel Ejofor, was wonderful. I thought he caught just the right tone of innate dignity as well as the horror and at times despair at the shocking circumstances.


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LEAVING PARIS by Collin Kelley

My Goodreads review –

Leaving Paris (Venus Trilogy)








Leaving Paris by Collin Kelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm sad yet satisfied on leaving Paris

I waited a long time for this third volume of Collin Kelley's trilogy. It completes and surpasses the excellent Conquering Venus and Remain in Light. I particularly love that it wasn't predictable – I hate being able to second-guess stories, as I so often can – yet there was a lovely rightness about the unfoldment and wrapping up of the interconnected stories.

I was reluctant to leave these characters, and wanted the book to go on forever, yet I couldn't stop reading even though that brought the end closer. It's beautifully written, and after all I don't feel I have said goodbye to these favourite companions. I have a sense of them going on living their lives in the reality Collin Kelley so convincingly created for them. And that makes me happy.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The 'I Can't Draw' Story

I am just, finally, exploring drawing in a way that is free and pleasurable – like it was when I was a very little kid.

I was thoroughly put off in primary school, by art teachers who said, 'Well ... the IDEA's good' and other kids who said, 'THAT'S not a tree!' Needless to say, I didn't make it one of my ongoing subjects. I dropped it as fast as I could.

I had various brief attempts later. I was in late middle age when my Mum showed me some outline sketches of leaves I'd done in my early teens, which she'd kept ever after. I looked and thought, 'Oh – impressionist.' Also they were beautiful, in a very simple way.

Soon after that revelation, I had fun with an intuitive drawing class I was invited to attend, using chalk pastels and involving meditation before drawing. Well no, not fun. Truthfully, it was a struggle; but I produced some things I still like, such as this one:



 I took a somewhat similar class some years later, with a different teacher, using both chalk and oil pastels. Meditation was used in this class too. Below is one of the results. (I don't know on a conscious level what the words are about; they just came to me and I took dictation.)



Those classes taught me techniques I'd not have dreamed of – rubbing with a rag, scraping with a palette knife....

I even sold aura drawings in the Sunday markets for a number of years, done with pastel pencils. They were not shaped like a human outline, but were characteristically patterns of swirling shapes. A more accurate term might have been energy portraits.



In the intuitive drawing classes, and with the aura drawings, I was channelling. I just 'knew' what colours to pick up, and what they should do on the paper. With the aura drawings I got simultaneous psychic readings for my clients, which I spoke aloud to them as I drew – spiritual readings rather than fortune-telling.

By the time I came to the intuitive drawing classes, I was at ease with channelling in other contexts – well, as easy as I'd ever get (it's still basically astounding to me). I knew how to 'get out of the way', and that I must trust what came through and keep going or else the input would pause until I resumed. So I could do that, albeit with much astonishment that I drew things which were recognisable. Faces, even!

But I still thought I couldn't draw in the more mundane way, picking up pen, pencil or charcoal and making marks on paper just as myself. And guess what, I don't have a lot of evidence yet that I can! But I have had a breakthrough all the same.

Firstly, I was recently inspired by some of the painter-poets I met online, particularly Claudia Schoenfeld of dVerse, to try water-colour sketching. I realised I didn't have to mess about with washes, which we were taught in the first year of primary school. Oh, how I failed to master washes! Oh, how I hated them! I now realise it is quite a sophisticated technique, probably inappropriate for little kids – and not something I have any hankering, or need, to try again.

The water-colour sketching has been fun. I have done one or two a year for the last three years or so, with big gaps between. My time is mostly taken up with writing. I have told myself that the sketching was 'just mucking around'. The first one I did, a neighbour's roof and foliage seen over my back fence, I thought actually quite good. Others have not been very representational, to say the least, although that's what I was trying for.



Then my friend Sharyn Williams, a lovely artist and sometime art teacher, published online some of her lessons (versions of which have inspired many children). I tried a few, and enjoyed them. I learnt things about what one can do with paint.

I still carried around my story that I can't draw.

It's Natalie Goldberg, my favourite writing teacher, who has finally completed my breakthrough. I hasten to add that I only know her through her books – and what wonderful books they are.

She is not only a beautiful writer, but also a painter – of quirky, happy, colourful works which she sometimes exhibits and sells. (However, I gather it's been a less public pleasure than her writing.) Now she has written a book, called In Living Color, in which she tells her readers how to do it too, via chapters of memoir interspersed with lessons. (I'm only up to Lesson 3, and am not working in living colour yet, but black-and-white pencil sketches.)

It's like her famous books for writers, Writing Down the Bones, etc. It gives me permission. I don't have to start from a place of 'good'; I can just pick up the pen (or in this case pencil) and start. It doesn't have to be a photo, she tells me, and points to a cup she has painted that's a bit wonky, non-circular.

I don't know why I never got this before – even knowing all the experiences I had that militated against it, and even despite all the new starts I made from time to time. But anyway, it finally got through. I don't have to draw well from the word go, I just have to pick up the pencil and draw.

The lessons don't explain formal techniques. They tell us to draw the contents of an open drawer, or items on our messy desk – just some of the objects there, and add a few that aren't, as well. We can put some writing in there somewhere, too. She turns it into play.



I can't tell you how often I have seen writers 'learn by doing'. If they keep doing it, keep being interested, keep wanting to communicate as well as they can, and keep wanting to make something that can be called art – above all, if they play and enjoy – they improve willy-nilly. It's a side-effect.

I expect that will happen with my drawing now, though it might take a long time. Even if it doesn't happen, no matter – I'm only doing it for me, for no better reason than wanting to.

I am struck, though, by how MUCH I want to, how much I have always wanted to. Yes, writing is my great love – poetry, to be specific – but, now that I have put all this down here, I notice how I keep coming back to the drawing, in one form or another, all my life, despite the obstacles and the wounds to my confidence.

It's never too late!