Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Childhood


Patrick Kavanagh’s “A Christmas Childhood” was born out of loneliness and solitude. The County Monaghan poet penned this poem having spent a Christmas season alone in his flat in Dublin. The poem is filled with nostalgia for rural, farming, family life. His memories comes to us through Christian imagery from the story of the birth of Jesus.
One side of the potato-pits was white with frost –
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven’s gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw –
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me.
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood’s. Again.
The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.
My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy’s hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.
And old man passing said:
‘Can’t he make it talk –
The melodion.’ I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife’s big blade –
there was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.
(Published today on Irishcentral.com)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Your Complete Guide to an Irish Christmas

"Merry Christmas" is "Nollaig Shona Duit," which is pronounced as "null-ig hun-a dit." Now you have almost completed your IE 101!

Weather
But despite the warmer temperatures, Ireland has been getting less sunlight than a typical December, due to heavy rain storms and cloudy conditions. In my time in Ireland, we experienced terrible storms and power cuts due to fallen trees but never snow.

You know you're in Ireland when you book the 8th December off and drive to the"Big Smoke". You get all your Christmas shopping done in one day. It's called "Farmers Christams" or nowadays #Farmersdayout. Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions that are all its own.  




You leave a can of Guinness, a slice of Christmas cake and a carrot out on Christmas Eve”... and rocking Irish Santa thanks you!

The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas Eve is still practiced in Ireland today. It has a number of purposes but primarily, it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they traveled looking for shelter.
German, btw, does or did that too. At least during the years while it was divided between East and West. (We in the West put the candles in the windows for our brothers in the East.)

Decorations 



The placing of a ring of holly on doors originated in Ireland as holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time, giving the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings.

All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas or Women's Christmas (January 6) and it is considered bad luck to take them down beforehand.


We missed our Christmas tree.Sure pine and spruce was available long before Christmas but would usually be dry and wilted by Christmas, especially when brought indoors. Firs or noble firs that keep better were not available. The tradition of advent wreath like in Germany with four candles in the lead up to Christmas for every Sunday was not a tradition in Ireland. I made my own wreath our of all kinds of evergreens available: yew, holly, laurel. 




And an unheard of frivolity (even / particularly now here in the USA as well) is a live tree with real candles. My American family almost went paranoid over it and insisted on having a hose from the garden at the ready. In Ireland, however, I saw decorated and illuminated Christmas trees outside for the first time, however, already up on December 1. They were not popular then in Germany yet and Germans mostly still buy their tree only on Christmas Eve and put it up then indoors.
         

St. Stephen's Day and the Wren Boy Procession
During Penal Times, there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as 'The Devil's bird'. On St Stephen's day, a procession takes place where a pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces. In olden times, an actual wren would be killed and placed on top of the pole.


My son was born on St. Stephen's Day. (Pronounced btw. like St. Stephense's Day in North Country Tipperary where we lived. Boxing Day in the UK).It was impossible to have a birthday party for the little boy. First of all, the Irish have big families and they all had to visit their relatives on that day. Second, Tipperary where we lived had the customary Wren boys doing the rounds on St.Stephen's day. Originally staging a fake wren shooting, tradition has it that a group of boys and young man dressed up and went from farm to farm singing and collecting goodies- sweets or pennies.


Ireland's a nation of emigrants and most Irish families will either be missing someone at their Christmas dinner table this year due to emigration or they’ll have the emotions and joyous experience of a homecoming. Emigration, a typical phenomenon for centuries until the boom times of the Celtic Tiger. And when he stopped roaring, the situation reversed again.

Last year the Dublin Airport Authority posted this emotional video on their YouTube channel showing an emotional Christmas homecoming with the O’Connor family from West Limerick being reunited for the first time in four years.

Christmas Songs
A generation of Irish kids grew up on Dustin, the singing turkey without who Christmas would not be complete,  especially when he joins Twink in a panto. His most popular songs  "Christmas Tree Song" and "Rat Trap" together with Bob Geldof.

One of the few Xmas songs I really like and get emotional about, although I never particularly liked Shane Mc Gowan, once married to Sinead O'Connor.  I'm amazed he is still alive - given his lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Reach Your Writing Goals like a Pro



Excerpt

Chapter 2: Step 1 – Declutter Your Mind

OK. Let’s get started!
No matter what your goal is, no matter how easy or hard you may think it is to attain, the first step that you must take is to declutter your mind.

One of the reasons for which you still haven’t reached your writing goals, is the fact that all of what you’ve learned and heard about publishing your book or about becoming a successful writer, were implemented ideas that are now blocking their fulfillment inside you.

“I have spent most of my time worrying about things that have never happened.” ~ Mark Twain.
For this reason, it’s a great decision to first unlearn what you have learned.

Why do you need to do this? Let me briefly explain.

During our life, we’ve been brainwashed to think that certain goals are impossible to attain. I am telling you that this is one of the biggest lies that we encounter in our lives.

If you are serious about your dreams, if you really wish with all your heart to materialize your dreams, nothing… and I mean nothing can stand in your way. All you have to do is to get rid of all the garbage that was inoculated in your beliefs. Do it and don’t lose time finding out who put it in your mind, why this was done, and most of all don’t blame the ones who taught you those things. They were themselves taught by others and maybe they were well intentioned when they did it. It could have just been because they thought that, that was the ultimate truth. No matter what, this is not your problem but theirs. They were wrong, and you just started on the road to prove it to the whole world.

M.C.Simon                                            


About the Author
Writer, translator, engineer, researcher, project manager, blogger, eternal student… these are only a few words to describe M.C. Simon.
In a recent interview she confessed:
“I am not only M.C. Simon, the writer whose goal is to rebuild in people the trust in their own forces and in the incredible powers that they received at birth; powers that, maybe they have forgotten about somewhere inside the depth of their being.
I AM all what “I am not only”, and much more! I AM who I AM. And in this form, I follow my Path to consciously touch The Absolute… The ONE who’s Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.
The same as YOU and like any other soul that accepted in these times, the challenge to experience life inside a human body, on this wonderful planet we call Earth.”

READ MORE
BUY here: Amazon US   & Amazon UK 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Time to Take Your Life Back

How those with a chronic illness or disability can take back control of their life, realize goals and learn to be happy again.
Hi, my name is Karen Magill. Siggy Buckley thought it would be a good idea if you and I talked.

First, I want to tell you a bit about myself. In June of 2000, I woke up partially paralysed on one side of my body. Nine days later, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The paralysis left within a few weeks but I was always exhausted and by the end of September, MS forced me to go on disability, leaving the best job I’d ever had.

I was 35 years old and I thought my life was over. All I could see for my future was sitting alone in my one bedroom apartment, watching television and waiting to die.

That’s not what happened though. Today, I am an award-winning novelist with four published paranormal novels and one non-fiction book. I have a budding career as a motivational speaker and have launched a life coaching/mentoring program to help others with a chronic illness and/or disability accomplish a lifelong goal.

Do you have a goal you want to accomplish but aren’t sure how to do it? Do you think it would help if you and I got together on Skype and talked about your goals and the problems you are having reaching it?

If you think speaking to me would be helpful, please go to this link, http://go.cmapn.com/karen-magill-webinar/ watch the webinar, and fill out the application form then book an appointment with me. Or you can go to http://www.karenmagill.com/coaching and fill out the application. All of this will be free.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Magill

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Samhain Blessings - Happy Halloween!


When I came to the United States first I was surprised, and delighted, to discover that Halloween was such a popular holiday.  You see Halloween is originally an Irish pagan feast.  It travelled to the United States with our emigrants, in the 19th century, and has been adopted into American culture.
The original Irish Celtic festival was called “Samhain.”  It occurred at the end of autumn when crops had been harvested and animals were slaughtered to provide food for the winter.   It was, essentially, the end of the farming year.   In Celtic culture the 1st November was considered “New Year’s Day”.    So Halloween was their “New Year’s Eve”.
To celebrate “Samhain” the ancient Celts would light bonfires.  These were originally called “bone fires” and were used to incinerate the bones of the recently slaughtered farm animals.   They would also play games such as bobbing for apples, which is still very popular.  In addition they liked to carve vegetables.  The same tradition is still alive today with the carved pumpkin.  As there were no pumpkins in Ireland they used to carve turnips.    

The ancient Celts believed that, at the end of the year, the souls of people who had died that year would leave the earth and go to heaven.    It was part of their belief that these ghosts roamed freely that night before leaving.   In order to ward off any hauntings and provide sustenance for their journey, people would leave food and drink at their door for the departed spirits.   You will notice the origins of “trick-or-treat”.   
We Irish also bake a special cake which is only eaten at Halloween.  It’s called “Barmbrack” and it is used for fortune telling!   Certain small items are concealed in the cake, such as a ring, a rag, a coin or a small stick.   Google “barmbrack” and find out what these signify!

In 601 AD Pope Gregory The First, issued his famous edict.  He told his missionaries that, rather than try to obliterate native customs and beliefs, they should convert them into Christian feast days.   So, the 1st of November then became the Feast of All Saints.  It became a sacred or “hallowed” day.   But the Celts still gave significance to the day before, which was “the eve of All Hallows” and became known as Hallows E’en and then Halloween.    
So now you have the story of Halloween.  And, as the actor Michael Cain would say, “Not many people know that!”

Written by John Schűtte for Siggy Buckley, the honorary “Paddy".


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Ghost Stories & a Bit of Irish History

  

"Our new home, the pink farmhouse in Co. Tipperary, didn’t have a resident ghost, but it was in a scary neighborhood. A little cottage, abandoned for donkey's years but not in disrepair, sat looming on a curve in the road that led up to our new farm. Sheila, who lived in the same townland, told me later that she saw Little People there sometimes when she came home late around midnight.
Maybe a case of too much of the brown stuff?
I had a sneaking suspicion that the Irish perpetuated this myth partly for the sake of tourists, to tell them what they like to hear. It’s a cliché that the Irish all have the gift of the gab anyway.
Ghost stories stand and fall with the trustworthiness of the person who vouches she knows it on good authority. And that, in Ireland, is usually the friend of a cousin once removed.
If you dig a bit deeper, research on haunted houses shows that they have something in common. Usually, a tragic death befell somebody in or around the house. And Ireland, with its almost 800-year long history of occupation and subjugation, is full of tragic stories. I came across a travelling psychic later whose mission it was to set the ghosts at ease, to send them home or lay them to rest. Marvelous. The interest in ghost lore, like in UFOs, never ceases.
Being skeptics, we just laughed Sheila off, until we heard about a real ghost story in our new home town.  
 
Leaving Killaloe, where we purchased our abode, on the road to Scarriff, there was a two-story stone house on the left hand side. In spite of the faded lace curtains, its dark windows gave the property an abandoned, foreboding look, while the huge front lawn was always meticulously mown and the landscaping simple but well kept. In front of the downstairs windows, several beautiful, truly blue hydrangeas had caught my eye while we were still hunting for a farm. I wondered whether the farm was for sale, because it was obviously empty. There was no estate agent’s sign, and I didn’t dare to walk up to the gloomy door and find out as it looked so uninviting, almost scary.
The farm buildings belonging to this house were across the road. A huge sycamore tree towered over everything at the roadside gate, and the tree trunk was protected by heavy steel bars. I wondered what the obviously expensive enclosure was about.
Pauline, my one-time housekeeper and later friend, who likes a good yarn but is generally reliable, told me about the drama behind this house. She is the grand-niece of the Irish freedom fighter and hero, Michael Collins, who was tragically shot and killed in 1922 in the Civil War following the War of Independence from Britain, just months before the creation of the Irish Free State. Pauline referred to him proudly by his nickname: The Big Fellow. A photo of him in his military fineries still hangs over her fireplace in the parlor ─ something she would never part with, neither for fear of death nor money!
In 1923, when Ireland was torn by a civil war, a family of five IRA supporters lived in this large farmhouse on the road to Scarriff. One dark night when all were in bed, there was terrible knocking of rifles on the door. It was the Black and Tans, the most feared and vicious British brigade, that all but terrorized local communities. Their primary task was to make Ireland hell for the rebels to live in. They meant business. Suspecting traitors in this house, they broke down the door and killed the whole family except for a nine-year-old boy who managed to scramble out during the bedlam. He stole away and hid across the road in a tall tree, which saved his life. As the only survivor, to this day, he takes care of house and lawn and protects the tree in memory of the tragedy that befell his family.

Is the house haunted? Yes, everybody knows that and well, what do you expect after so many killings? Could I talk to the owner? No, he is a bit funny in the head and has never been the same since. I drove by it regularly, and each time couldn’t help but remember the horror that raged in such a peaceful rural area."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Real Advice For The Newlywed to donate 10% of Royalties to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.




AS MANY Of YOU KNOW, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). As our part in advancing the cause of DVAM, we would like to announce that for the remainder of the month of October, 10% of all my royalties from the sale of my book, Real Advice For The Newlywed currently on sale at Amazon.com will be donated to NoMore.org’s campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Some alarming facts:

·       Nearly one in four women in the U.S. reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
·       On average, three women are killed every day as a result of domestic violence. More than 40 percent of female murder victims are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.
·       Data found that women experience over two million injuries from partner violence each year.
·       Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.

From first page to last, Real Advice For The Newlywed was written as a guide to help married couples navigate their way through the sometimes tempestuous strife and turmoil many couples encounter - including the threat of physical and emotional violence. There is one entire chapter devoted specifically on how to handle the threat of physical and mental cruelty.

If you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Real Advice For The Newlywed, for yourself or as a wedding gift to a couple you know, now is the time to do so before October ends. This is an important and vital effort to ensure the continuation of NoMore.org’s efforts to educate and eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault. Make it yours.

I invite you to share this with as many of your contacts as possible.

Watch MoveOn.org’s recent video on YouTube:       

Samuel Murphy
on Facebook
on Amazon


Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Guilt Factor: Motivation by Fear and the Means to Empathy


For me, the need to write has always had a face.

Whose face that is and what expression it wears varies. Typically, it's been the face of a writing professor that's haunted me during those long middle-of-the-night writing sessions. It doesn't matter how fair or kind the professor is; for some reason (maybe it's the dark and caffeine jitters), my imagination paints them with a steady frown, causing my stomach to knot over every word with the thought that they might be unamused by my metaphors. Other times, the face has been warmer -- that of a close friend, perhaps -- but with eyes sad and disappointed as they strain to find some value in my work. More recently, the face has been the loved one abroad, patient and smiling; it invokes a twinge of pain in me as I remember my promise to write novels in his absence, while his cheerful voice says, "It's okay, don't feel too bad about it."

There has always been a sense of guilt associated with my work, and that guilt has always felt personal because I've associated it with important people in my life. It's not that uncommon of a trait among overachievers, I suppose. How often have we psychoanalyzed the artist driven by a neurotic need to please an ever-dissatisfied parent or mentor, even years after the latter's demise? Whether it is for God or husband or mommy dearest, history is full of creators desperately striving to impress someone.

Why? Isn't love of the art enough?  

For my part, guilt in its worst moments has caused the writing process to be miserable. Mainly because those disappointed faces in my mind are entirely fictitious, not at all founded upon reality. I'm naturally self-critical to begin with, and for some reason or another I often project that criticism onto others. Even if any of the people whose faces I see tell me my work is fine, a small corner of my subconscious doesn't believe them, doesn't want to believe they're being honest in their praise. There's a fine line between constructive encouragement and being too nice, and I'll be damned if I can tell the difference.

But whether those frowns are fabricated or not, my fear of disappointing others says something interesting about the writing process, I think. I would like to believe that love of writing could be its own motivator, but for me it isn't so. Even as one who thrives on solitude, I find myself needing others in my writing -- for validation, for support. Call it insecurity (and I'm sure it is, partly), but I suspect that it has more to do with empathy. While "writing for the self" is a popular trend these days, and valid in its own right, I think it fails to see what makes great literature great: its ability to evoke something in another person, to touch something deep in his roots and make him see a commonality between himself and a stranger on a page. Writing gives the guise of speaking as an individual, when in reality it speaks of humanity.


While I have no grand illusions about inspiring millions, I can't bring myself to pull the "misunderstood writer" card and write without any regard to what others think. It goes against what has impacted me as a reader, and consequently what I can only hope to achieve as a writer: if what I write doesn't inspire, if it doesn't resonate with someone, I have failed.

But I know I don't have to please everyone, nor do I want to. In his part-memoir, part-advice book On Writing, Stephen King explains that "you can't let the whole world into your story," but you can -- and should -- let in those who matter most. According to King, every good writer must have an Ideal Reader (I.R., for short); someone for whom you write, someone who, in flesh or in spirit, is always "going to be in your writing room." As King points out, sometimes a writer's Ideal Reader (like the neurotic patient's mommy dearest) is miles away or many years dead. It doesn't matter. An I.R. gives the writer a tangible audience, a direction for the writing process; someone who the writer wants to make think, laugh, cry, and feel deeply. "And you know what?" King adds. "You'll find yourself bending the story [for them] even before the Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence."[sic!]
It takes a certain empathy to write with another person in mind, and to know that person well enough (at least, to think one does) to impact them. And that's marvelous, because empathy -- seeing and valuing each other's common humanity -- is what writing's all about, isn't it?

As for myself, I've found that guilt is not such a terrible thing to live with after all. That fear of disappointing my reader is what forces me to analyze my own work critically; it makes me take a second, third, and fourth look at everything, asking myself, "Is there anything else I can do to improve this part?" Having someone else in mind, moreover, often gives me a reason to write on my darkest days. As a naturally self-deprecating self-critic, I find it easy to conclude on a bad day that I'm not worth the time or effort to write. But, because I'm a compassion-driven person, someone else is always worth the work.

So, in spite of its bad rap, I don't mind living with guilt. If a visitation from a frowning face is what produces the work, so be it. Maybe, someday, I'll finally make that face smile. 
Emma Moser 

Twitter @em_mo_write ♦
Facebook.com/antiquedwriter



Monday, September 14, 2015

Ghosts and Psychics In Ireland



When I began my novel, A Cry From The Deep, I had no idea that my characters would includ ghosts and psychics. It was the land that spoke to me, as well as my protagonist, Catherine Fitzgerald, a scuba diver on assignment to cover a treasure hunt, who took me in this direction.
I’be been blessed with much travel, so it’s not surprising that the places I’ve been end up in my stories. My husband, Rob, and I visited Ireland in 2006 and to say that I was blown away by its beauty is an understatement. 
Ireland is so much more when you see it for yourself. I tried to capture what I saw in my novel, A Cry From The Deep, when Catherine Fitzgerald sees the land for the first time.

As if the drive wasnt challenging enough, she also had to contend with the distraction of the picture postcard scenery. Though the skies were grey, the greens of the landscape were unlike anything shed ever seen. It was as if God, the artist supreme, had selected every green paint available on the market and then some. There was kelly green, avocado, forest, willow, apple, lime, and mint. One green flowed seamlessly into another as it marched over the hills and into the beyond. She passed thatched cottages behind old stone fences, neon coloured pubs by the roadside, and new mansions set back on large properties. She even welcomed the times she had to stop to let farmers cross the road with their flocks of sheep. The gentle landscape was a welcome contrast to the frenetic pace of New York.”  from A Cry From The Deep


Because A Cry From The Deep, is a time slip story of a love so powerful it spans several lifetimes, it had to have ghosts and psychics. When Catherine Fitzgerald, about to join an underwater hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada, buys an antique Claddagh ring, she is troubled by nightmares and visions that set her on a path to fulfill a promise of love made centuries before. Set in Provence, Manhattan, and Ireland, this romantic mystery exposes not only two women’s longings, but also the beauty of the deep, where buried treasures tempt salvagers to break the law.




Thanks again,  Siggy. I know you love Ireland as well. 

Diana Stevan 
For more about me, please visit me at http://www.dianastevan.com
https://twitter.com/DianaStevan, or my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/dianastevan.author  
The link to my book title is http://amzn.to/1Lmx7nq.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Helen Holt and Historical Perspective on our Legacy

I have two posts to share with you that speak to the same topic: our legacy as Pen Women. One is an obituary for Helen Holt, whose biography by Patricia Daly-Lipe was published this year by the Pen Women Press, and whose life story is an inspiration. As April Myers, Pen Woman Magazine editor put it, “We should have a national day of mourning” for this remarkable Pen Woman. The second post is an extensively researched article by Jacksonville Pen Woman Siggy Buckley on the NLAPW’s history. Quoting from a 1970s special centennial issue of the Pen Woman magazine, Siggy paints a beautiful portrait of some of the women who overcame adversity to give future generations (that would be US now!) a reason to be Pen Women. –Treanor Baring (editor)

Helen Holt, 1913-2015

“When it comes to doing things for others,
some people stop at nothing.”

These words are not just a frequent aphorism of Helen Holt. They are a true reflection of her 23 dedicated years as a public servant. Helen’s list of accolades is nothing less than remarkable. Yet the 101-year-old icon and first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia was not at all shy to admit she became “a professional woman by necessity.”
Helen Holt unwittingly became a trailblazer for women in the political arena. The real irony is that she never gave politics a second thought until she married the youngest U.S. senator (1935-1941) from West Virginia, Rush D. Holt, Jr. in 1941. Helen was immediately involved in her husband’s work, and Rush was quick to teach Helen “how to work with men and to feel comfortable working with them,” since she was a lone woman in a man’s world. Sadly, Rush was only 49 at the time of his death. But, despite no income (unlike today’s members of Congress), Helen was able to provide for her family when she took over Rush’s position in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Two years later, Helen was sworn in as the first female Secretary of State of West Virginia. In 1960, President Eisenhower commissioned Helen with “the task of creating a program to fix the nation’s ailing network of nursing homes” because, as Helen wrote, “they had to get a woman—no man was sufficiently interested.” Tirelessly, she carried out this job under seven consecutive United States Presidents.
Patricia Daly-Lipe
District of Columbia Branch 

This post was published first on our national Website on August 5,2015.
Continue reading; Siggy's post comes next. (published ibd.)

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Legacy of Pen Women

I'm a blogger and writer and an International member of the National League of Pen Women...my byline says. So who are the Pen Women? 

The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. is a professional organization of women in creative fields to support and promote creative excellence and professional standards in the Arts. The League reaches back for almost 120 years with a rich history of outstanding members and a colorful tapestry of talents in the fields of writing, art and music.
It was founded by five adventurous and ambitious writers in 1897 because the literary world they wanted to conquer as journalists was exclusively a male domain. Barred from the all-male Press Club, their indignation about such discrimination led them to act. Now there are branches all over the United States with distinguished programs such as competitions for young artists and writers to fulfill our nonprofit mission to promote the arts.
With the League’s membership expanding, it appointed a Music Committee in 1916.
Pen Women have made history since their founding days: “Pen Woman Anna Kelton Wiley went to jail in 1917 with 98 other women in an attempt to convince President Woodrow Wilson of the need for Women’s Suffrage.”
25 years after its inception/foundation, the League’s artistic membership had sufficiently grown to warrant a League Art Show. One of its art members was young Vinnie Ream, the sculptor of the statue of President Abraham Lincoln still admired in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
It took until 1971, however, for women to be approved for membership in the National Press Club. “On February 22, 1971, 24 newswomen were approved for membership in the National Press Club, ending the all-male member’s tradition,” Mary Manning writes in her contribution to the Centennial Celebration Pen Woman magazine. This small version of the magazine is a priceless testimonial to the many accomplishments of the League; it gives a detailed overview of the Pen Women’s renowned history and endeavors.
In 1950, a mansion was purchased in Washington D.C which became the splendid Pen Arts Building. Within walking distance of the White House, art museums, and just down the street from the National Geographic Society, its location has a historic designation. Members are encouraged to visit it and its art collections, library and archives. Currently, there is an initiative to raise funds for needed building repairs.
The Pen Women are proud to have many famous artists of international renown like Pearl Buck and Dorothy Parker among their ranks as well as several First Ladies like Florence Kling Harding, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton who are Honorary Members.
Once a Pen Woman – always a Pen Woman. Paula Harding, journalist and author, one of our own members here in Jacksonville, FL was a distinguished member for over 50 years. She held every office except that of the Treasurer, “because she had no talent for that.” She met personally with Honorary Member Pearl Buck when she visited Jacksonville. She is the perfect example extending her hand into the community well beyond her retirement writing a newsletter for the community she lived in until, sadly, she passed away in 2013.
“It’s a good feeling to belong to an organization as established (78 years!), as large as 5,800 talented women!), and as prestigious as the League…not just the honor of being associated with some of the most talented creators.., not just the thrill of recognizing so many famous bylines…There is a delight…such a glow of admiration and affection that makes me proud to be able to say, “I am a Pen Woman” (Elizabeth Shafer, 1975).
The Centennial magazine revealed another true gem, the term Penguin and Penguin Parade referring to the husbands of the Pen Women. When attending one of their famous dinners in evening gear, what should one call the attending spouses appropriately? Liboria Romano who was president of the Manhattan branch at the time, in 1949, came up with the idea to call them Pen-guins.
So much has changed since the first communication bulletin was printed and distributed in 1916 and the first quarterly magazine was issued in 1920. (These magazines can be read in the Pen Arts archives!) These days the League has fully embraced the digital era with a wonderful, informative national website (www.NLAPW.org). Most local branches have their own websites, e.g., JaxPenwomen.com.
“In an age where striving for excellence is a rare thing, what a privilege it is to belong to THE NATIONAL LEAGUE OF AMERICAN PEN WOMEN. TO THE FUTURE!” (from the Sacramento branch according to the Centennial magazine). This still holds true today. One for all and all for one, is after all, our motto.

If you're a writer, artist or create music, you may want to consider membership with us. There will be a branch near you
Jacksonville Branch.
This blogpost was first published on our national website August 5,2015.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Social" Media and Reviews Don't Mix ????


 (Picture is from Funny reviews by Accoutrements Horse Head Mask) 


It’s only been a few weeks since I wrote an article on Indies Unlimited titled Amazon Steps in as Big Brother http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2015/07/07/amazon-steps-in-as-big-brother/  chronicling how Amazon has decided who can leave customers reviews and who can not. My disappointment started when the company began removing reviews for some of the books I bought and read. I felt so bad about not being able to leave my customer review because I believed the author deserved the praise. I was told via email since there is not phone support for this department that I could not leave my review because I knew the author.

That was odd to me because I didn’t know this author anymore than the other nearly 700 authors I left reviews for before this. This didn’t sit well with me and I wrote them only to get the same computer generated response, and I quote, “We are unable to post your review because your account activity indicates that you know the author. We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature.”

Even though I tried to state my case I failed miserably to get through to them as was pretty much dismissed. I knew I had to share this story because I believed this was just the first chip of the iceberg. And surely it was.

Since I wrote my original story things have gotten worse for me, just last week I received a new message from Amazon stating, “We are writing to inform you that we have removed your review privileges and suppressed all of your reviews. Any new reviews written will automatically be suppressed. We took this action because you have failed to comply with our review guidelines and manipulated product reviews. For detailed information on the guidelines, please visit: http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines.” This was exactly the same message Christoph Fischer received from Amazon months earlier. I knew my reviewing days had come to an end. It was a big disappointment to me because not only did I spent a lot of money on all these books I read but I had also invested a great deal of my time as well. As an Indie author I have wanted to support others in my position and this was one way to help. Now this was all for not.

It was bound to happen but when it did I was flooded with feelings of disillusionment , anger, resentment, loss and messages from other authors on Facebook concerned why my reviews for their books were no longer on Amazon. Some took it personal thinking I had a reason for removing my reviews. That goes to show you how important these reviews are to us. They are one of the few rewards we receive as Indie authors because certainly most of us are not getting rich and famous. Well, maybe some of us are. ;-)


If you haven’t, would you please sign the petition author Jas T. Ward started to get Amazon to Change the “You Know This Author” Policy. It now has 13,685 supporters and it needs 1,315 to reach 15,000.



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