Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Crazy Book Publishing Business

Today I'm one of three publishers featured on the Insecure Writers Support Group. We answer a few questions about the business of submitting and publishing one's book. I really appreciate being included in the post, as I never get tired of talking about this fascinating business, and about WiDo's mission to publish books that are:
  • Readable but not formulaic.
  • Entertaining without being fluff.
  • Uplifting without being preachy.
  • Literary but not obtuse.
  • Realistic and thought-provoking
  • without being graphic.
  • Above all, books that tell a darn good story!

Ten years ago WiDo was born, July 2007, with the publication of  Farm Girl. And as wonderful as the experience has been, a company that's in business for that long will upset a few people. This usually happens when someone feels disappointed in book sales, and they'll blame the publisher for not doing enough. I can understand the frustration. One's book is near and dear to the heart, like a child, and authors can get extremely protective about what happens or doesn't happen with their written offspring.

Recently, there was an unsettling situation with a new editor I'd signed on. She had emailed me, seemed personable, eager, and proficient. However, against my usual practice, I didn't ask for a resume or research her at all. I sent her a sample manuscript to edit and, liking her work, followed it with a contract, which she promptly signed and returned.

Then things got weird. Constant emails containing requests for more money. Questions about why she wasn't getting more money. Comparisons with how WiDo pays compared to the indie authors she had edited for. Asking for the work to be sent in a different format than what we'd agreed on.

It felt like I was being stalked! But I answered her emails as thoroughly as I could. Then came one saying unless we paid her more, she'd request the contract be cancelled. I said, Sorry, this is the agreed on price, and she replied saying this was her resignation and please cancel her contract.

I was happy to do so, since her unprofessional conduct had escalated since she turned in her contract. Mistakenly, I figured that would be the end of it. Two or three emails a day started coming in, asking for a second chance. She was wrong, she'd listened to indie authors who had influenced her, she wanted to try again.

I ignored the emails for about four days, until finally I decided okay, I'll answer and maybe that will end the stalking. I wrote and told her we will let things stand, sorry it didn't work out and good luck with your future career.

Her response stunned me: I was selfish, cold-hearted, cruel, and nothing good ever deserved to happen to me. Because everyone deserved a second chance and how could I be so mean. Oh, and by the way, she wrote, don't respond to this or write me again because I will delete your emails without reading them.

Anyone who deals with the public for any length of time will make a few enemies, upset a few people. But still, there's a stunned sensation that lingers long after the last vitriolic email comes into the inbox. Did that really just happen?

Have you ever had to deal with an unhinged individual in your personal or professional life? How did you handle it?


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

On Having Too Much Stuff and Getting Rid of It

There's a link going around Facebook to an online article titled: "Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents' Stuff."  Since I've been through it, both on the daughter/ daughter-in-law side as well as the mother/homeowner side, I could totally relate.

My mother and my mother-in-law were worlds apart regarding stuff and how to deal with it. Both were widows, and that's where the resemblance ended. My mother chose to downsize as much as she could, while my mother-in-law bought a larger house with more room for her possessions.

Being my mother's daughter and admiring simplicity, I am still fascinated with how my mother-in-law collected, stored, added on until it seemed she was buried under her stuff. Not that she was a junkaholic or hoarder. Her things were nice, often expensive, and usually well-organized. She had an entire room of her house for fabric, arranged like a retail fabric store. Another similar room for crafts and the supplies related to whatever crafts she'd done or planned to do. Another room for storage of food and household supplies. Two freezers held hundreds of pounds of cheese, butter, nuts and other deliciousness that would take two families a lifetime to consume.

On the contrary, my mother had as her goal to live in such a way that her daughters (the four of us) would not have to agonize over her possessions when she passed. The more she could get rid of, the happier she was. When she died, my sisters, nieces and nephews who lived nearby were able to completely empty Mom's two bedroom apartment in less than a week. My mom would have been pleased by that.

When my mother-in-law died, she had a 4000 sq foot house filled with furniture, family history documents and photos, and of course the many years worth of food storage. It took my sister-in-law a decade to completely go through everything and dispose of it one way or another.

I'm not saying one way is better than another. I think in a way my sister-in-law enjoyed her task, as she was able to spend this time going through all these things related to her mom's life and that of her family going back generations. And getting all the butter, cheese and nuts would have been nice.

But as for me, I'm more like my mom, taking pleasure in simplicity and knowing my kids won't be burdened with having to deal with piles of stuff when I'm gone. I've already done that job for them.

My husband and I currently live a very downsized existence. We got rid of nearly everything so we could leave the country three years ago. Now that we're back, neither of us want to start collecting again. Our goal is to stay free and unattached so we can pack up and go again when we feel like it.



This is our living room, a spare space furnished at very low cost. The most expensive thing we bought was the couch for $25.

I have a couple of antique wall hangings I plan on getting framed for those two bare walls. I know once we leave, my daughter will be happy to take them for her home. She's already told me where she would hang them.

We did buy the TV cabinet. My husband needed a place to keep office supplies so we got it for $15 at Restore. It's one of those brown things that nobody really wants anymore. And if they did, they'd paint it. Since painting stresses me out, I'm okay leaving it as is, although I admit it's too dark for my taste.

I paid $3.00 for the basil plant on the table. It's going to get repotted and put on the patio. And basil isn't permanent, except in beautiful Guatemala where it grows up into a year round tree of abundance. In Utah, it dies with the frost.

This was a pretty long blog post to talk about living simply. Clearly I have more words than I have stuff, which is exactly the way I like it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

And the blog is still here....

It's been six months since I posted. Isn't it nice how you can ignore the blog for such a long time yet when you come back, it's like you never left. Everything is in its place. Nobody moved a thing while I was gone. Nothing changed.

I woke up this morning thinking, Time to write a post! My last one was about our visit to Palenque, in Mexico.

Shortly after that trip, my husband and I realized it was time to return to the U.S. Our business, WiDo Publishing, has been expanding and needed closer attention. We needed to get in all our medical visits using our familiar doctors and insurance. And of course, to be closer to our family!

So we are back in Salt Lake City, Utah. We both found it strange that adjusting to the U.S. culture after being away for three years was more difficult and time-consuming than expected. I may go into more of that in later blog posts.

For now, I just wanted to come back to the blog and make sure it was still working!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Palenque Archeological Site and Why I Won't Go There Again

Bruce and I never made it to Guatemala's Tikal, the largest Maya ruins in Central America. We were determined not to miss Palenque in Mexico, considered to be a very large and important site in Chiapas, Mexico, and although not as large as Tikal, comparable to it.


We had visited other Maya ruins in both Guatemala and Chiapas. All the sites we'd been to before had been peaceful, tranquil settings, where I wanted to just sit and bask in the feelings of these ancient cities. We supposed we'd have a similar experience upon visiting Palenque, although on a grander and more glorious scale, making us really excited about the trip.



How surprised I was to find that Palenque was the opposite. No sooner did I step foot on the land than I had a compelling desire to leave. But we had traveled many miles to get here. My restless emotional state seemed silly. Nonetheless, I couldn't relax. I started walking and just kept going as fast as I could through the park, hardly stopping to look at the buildings.



People were climbing steps and wandering through the palaces on top of the structures. All I could do was follow the pathways around and through the site, giving just a quick glance around. Bruce wanted to go slowly and take photos, while I wanted to walk far and fast as quickly as possible. We agreed to meet at a central location in an hour and a half, at 11 am.

He took all the photos while I felt the frantic urge to just get away.



After thirty minutes I was done, wishing we'd set up our meeting time for earlier. I walked around the edge of the park to kill another thirty minutes, then wandered toward our meeting place hoping I'd run into Bruce.



At last I saw him with his ever present backpack and cowboy hat making his way down the stairs of one of the structures. I walked across the grassy area towards him, thinking how nice it was that we'd found each other ahead of schedule. I visualized the two of us running across the field in a joyous reunion.

On the contrary, Bruce plopped down heavily on the bottom step of the edifice. I couldn't bring myself to go to the structures I'd been avoiding for the past hour and sat down on a stump in the field. We were within shouting distance of each other so we conversed in loud voices.

"Are you ready to go?" I hollered.

"Almost, just need to rest a bit. I'm really tired," he said back in barely a whisper.

"What? I can't hear you."

He repeated himself loud enough for me to hear. A young couple walking hand in hand nearby must have thought we were crazy. Why were we shouting? Why not just sit together? What was wrong with us?

Always sensitive to what people were thinking about me, I forced myself to get up and go sit next to him. He told me how tired he was, how heavy his nearly empty backpack felt on his shoulders, how he had to rest a bit, then he'd be ready to leave.

Finally, we got out of there. Later, we reflected on our varied experiences. He had felt this strange, unbearable exhaustion and heaviness after exploring the structures, especially the tunnel pictured below. I'd felt an inexplicable need to get away. There were several other strange occurrences that I won't go into.
Picture of darkness 
In the end, our conclusion was that bad things must have happened in this area those many centuries ago.

Anyone who wants to know more about Palenque can easily find information online. What I'm sharing is not ancient history but personal history, how the two of us felt very negative vibes coming from this place. A place I never want to visit ever again.

Has this sort of thing ever happened to you, where you felt terribly uncomfortable in an environment for no sensible reason?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remodeling & Modernizing a Website

The WiDo Publishing website is getting a remodel! I'm as excited as if it were my house. The designer asked me to send her links of sites I like What a super fun little task!

I LOVE looking at publishing and author websites. It's like an obsession of mine. My favorite designs are sleek and streamlined, without clutter, without a lot of movement and easy to navigate. The WiDo website hasn't had any significant change for years. It's due for a facelift.

Still, I'm nervous. I don't want to lose the tone and temperament of it, since it clearly represents what our company is about. So many of our authors have mentioned the WiDo website as a motivating force in submitting to us.

“After viewing their website, I discovered they had an approach to books that very much matched my own – books that tell good stories!" --Ruth Fox

 "WiDo had a large number of women authors in their list. I felt from reading the website that WiDo editors would 'get' this collection, which is a deeply personal book.” --Patty Somlo

“My book is too special to me to be looked at like a product. WiDo takes a personal approach to its books and that really appeals to me." --Melissa Palmer

"When I read the WiDo mission statement, I felt as if the editors were reading my mind, so I knew I had to submit." --Donelle Dreese

“As I browsed in the fiction section of a local bookstore, I picked up a book published by a company called WiDo. I remember admiring the beautiful cover. I searched WiDo’s website, and read editor Karen Jones Gowen’s article, ‘A New Renaissance in Literature.’ Karen’s philosophy matches my own thoughts. She even mentioned William Tyndale, a hero of mine." --Carol Pratt Bradley

“I did my research and narrowed my short list down to two small publishers with beautiful, amazing books and authors who loved to work with them. " --C.R. Asay

“I have studied literally hundreds of publisher websites over the years, and since submission via email is now the norm, the state of the website is of crucial importance for writers looking to submit. So, when I found the WiDo website, not only was it a pleasure exploring its different components, but I was impressed with the straightforward, unfussy submissions guidelines.” --Rebecca Lloyd

Reading these quotes along with those of other excellent authors who submit based on their positive impressions from our website, and one can understand why I feel nervous about changing it. 

But it feels like the time is right. I'm excited to see what the designer comes up with!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Creative Pause

I don't believe in "writer's block." Although of course there are days when one's creativity is in full swing and others when it seems to disappear, when the writing doesn't go well for whatever reason.

I like to think of those periods as a pause in creativity. No block. Nothing I can't change when I'm good and ready, just a slight pause.

There's plenty to do when it happens, things that are part of a writer's work. Update the website. Read articles about the publishing business. Stay involved on social media. Organize files. Read books!

One nice thing about a creative pause is feeling like a normal person instead of a slave to whatever book is after you, pushing itself to get written. You can relax and enjoy life instead of agonizing over every "wasted" moment not spent writing.

Writer's block has negative connotations. The creative pause is rather nice. It can be a welcome respite from the intense productivity that comes when creativity is in its fullness with its prodding, pushing, unrelentless attack on your time, talents and energy.

No need to dread the creative pause, is what I tell myself. Welcome and embrace it, enjoy it, make the most of it. Like all good things, it will come to an end in its own good time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Memoir Review: ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces

…At age nineteen, Dorit Sasson, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was trying to make the status quo work as a college student―until she realized that if she didn’t distance herself from her neurotic, worrywart of a mother, she would become just like her.

This book caught my interest. I'm reviewing ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER as part of the WOW blog tour.

Paperback:  337 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  She Writes Press (June 14, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1631520350
ISBN-13: 978-1631520358
Amazon Link: click here


Book Summary:
At age nineteen, Dorit Sasson, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was trying to make the status quo work as a college student―until she realized that if she didn’t distance herself from her neurotic, worrywart of a mother, she would become just like her.

Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces is Sasson’s story of how she dropped out of college and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces in an effort to change her life―and how, in stepping out of her comfort zone and into a war zone, she discovered courage and faith she didn’t know she was capable of.

My review of ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER

Dorit's relationship with her mother is the motivating force for her decision to join the Israel Defense Forces, although her father's influence was a strong part of it as well. Her Israeli-born father, divorced from her mother and remarried, realizes if Dorit doesn't do something to break the unhealthy psychological ties with her mother, she may turn out just like her.

The mother in Dorit's story is a minor character in some ways, yet looms huge throughout the book due to her influence on Dorit. The mother is actually fascinating, one of those kinds of people you can't imagine functions in real life, yet you want to know every detail. If Dorit ever writes a memoir about her mother's life, that would be one not to miss.


Once Dorit is in Israel, my favorite parts of the book were her descriptions about the country and people. I found it interesting how she felt safe there, like the whole country had her back. And the citizens love their IDF, feeling like this strong group of committed soldiers has their back. 


Altogether, this memoir has a fascinating dynamic, going from the dysfunctional family life Dorit experiences in New York City, to kibbutz life as an eighteen-year-old, and at last breaking into a strong independent adult as a member of the IDF. 

About the Author:  Dorit Sasson writes for a wide range of print and online publications, including The Huffington Post and The Writer, and speaks at conferences, libraries, and community centers. She is the author of the a featured chapter in Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, the latest installment of that best-selling series, and. She is the host of the global radio show "Giving Voice to Your Courageous Story." She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children.



Find Dorit Sasson Online:


Twitter:  @VoicetoStory



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How It Used to Be for Women Writers

I went through a spell of reading books that were highly acclaimed back in the 1950s and 1960s. They were ones I had missed reading since in the 1950s I was a kid reading Nancy Drew and Beverly Cleary.

In the Sixties when I was in high school, my favorite books were Les Miserables, Great Expectations and David Copperfield. I loved my classics and had no interest in the current fiction of the day back then.

I won't name the books or writers I read during my recent catch-up phase. They were all extremely well-regarded, prize-winning novels by famous literary people.

And I could barely stomach them, giving me much fodder to reflect on how much the literary culture has changed since those days of the 1950s through the 1970s. And thank heavens for that.

As managing editor at WiDo, I can say unequivocally that if any one of those prize-winning novels had come to us as a submission, we'd have turned it down flat. They were that bad.

Hardly any story, themes that made no sense, unlikable characters. No heart, no soul. Yet these books and their famous authors were such a big deal back then.

In fifty plus years, the world of books is completely different. To me, that's a very good thing. I'm so thankful I got busy with marriage and children and didn't try to have a career in those days as a novelist. I'd have been shot down so bad I may have never recovered.

Women writers didn't fare too well in that era except in the romance genre. The literary giants were largely all men.

Women with literary aspirations instead would often attach themselves to literary men--college professors, published poets, playwrights and novelists--and the women would write their poetry, essays and stories, maybe teach and maybe get published in little literary magazines or win an award now and then.

What I did was write children's stories and sell them to magazines for kids. Not exactly literary aspirations but it kept me in the game.

Joyce Carol Oates was different. She is one of my heroes and favorite writers of all time. I'm not sure how much her books made though, compared to men writers of the same era. She continued working throughout her career as a college professor rather than going full time as a writer. Either she loved to teach or she needed the financial security it provided, who can say.

JK Rowling, still using her initials since the publisher didn't figure the book would sell if people thought the author was a woman, changed all that. She gave women writers a voice.

Every woman writing and publishing today owes a debt of gratitude to JK Rowling. She opened up the era of publishers actually believing women could write outside of the romance genre and do it very, very well.

On the heels of the Harry Potter phenomenon came the Kindle revolution, further giving women an outlet for their work via self-publishing. The Kindle revolution along with POD publishing also provided the means for many small publishers like WiDo to remain profitable.

Many of these small publishers have overwhelmingly embraced female authors, and given older women a chance as well. One of WiDo's bestselling books is In the Mirror: A Memoir of Shattered Secrets by Ann Carbine Best, published when Ann was 72.

Now books written by women rule the bestseller lists. For those of us my age who clearly remember the way it used to be, this is pretty awesome.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Addicted to Netflix

Every evening after a long day of whatever I get all excited for one thing: the next 2 hours of Netflix. So much to choose from! No commercials! English or Spanish? Comedy or Drama? Film or TV series? British or US or novella from Spain?

Forget reading a book. My eyes are strained from looking at words much of the day. I want my stories mainlined into my brain via Netflix.

Image result for king edward viii and wallis simpson
Last night we watched W.E., the movie about the "romance of the century" between King Edward and Wallis Simpson. It inspired us to research further into this tale and see if it really was a romance. What was the real story behind the story?

See how my Netflix addiction adds to my body of knowledge of history and the world?

Then we end our evening with something soothing, like Animal Fight Club, where we can see a variety of animals battling to the death with their opponents of the same species, usually over food or mating rights.

What interesting things have you been watching on Netflix lately? Any suggestions???


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wall Art of Comitan

Comitan is a great walking city. There are wide sidewalks stretching off into interesting places, and often hordes of other people around strolling, shopping, visiting. My husband and I have been all over town and not once felt anything but safe. He takes his camera when he goes and especially enjoys taking pictures of the wall art that's everywhere.

I thought I'd post a few of my favorites. This leopard is the winner, followed by the snake. The leopard is regal and majestic, the snake just cute and friendly.



It's amazing to me how an artist can paint on such a large canvas as a wall, with great detail that one has to move far away to appreciate. How do they do it? And when do they do it? I've never seen anyone painting the walls, then one day it's done.


I'm glad the authorities don't go around arresting or fining anyone, or painting over their work. The artists don't get anything for their creations except the joy of doing it for public display. For the joy it gives them and gives those who see it as they go around town.


The scene below is painted on a wall in a children's park. It's so sweet and charming, illustrating the culture of an earlier time.


Ending with another depiction of an earlier era, the Aztec culture. We lived among the Mayan culture in Guatemala. Mexico is land of the Aztecs. They are much friendlier these days, thank goodness. And the food is amazing.