Monday, January 30, 2012

Q&A with Author Arthur Wooten


As many people know, my blogs (like my life) cover many different topics. I have mentioned the children’s book (Wise BearWilliam) my friend Arthur Wooten has written on here before, but really wanted him to share what the experience of publishing a children’s book has been like. I’m so glad he had the time to give us some insight into this world.   

Welcome back to my blog, Arthur! I know this is your first children's book, but tell us your background in writing/performing for children.

Arthur Wooten
When I first arrived in NYC in 1975, hoping to make it in show biz and carrying my little valise full of all my worldly belongings and a pair of tap shoes (I kid you not), the first show I landed was a children’s musical. It ran at the Provincetown Playhouse on MacDougal Street and it was called Dirtie Ferdie Comes Clean. Ferdie had to fight germs and disease and I was cast as his friend and hero, Lester The Laundry Bag. Yes, they dressed me as a laundry bag. Actually, it was very cute, ran forever and was my first introduction to children’s theatre. Performing for children is tough. They are a brutal audience. If they love you, you’ll know it. If they hate you, you’ll know it. If they question you, you’ll know it. I remember during the run of the show, a kid sitting in the front row of a matinee performance screamed out to me, “Are you girl or a boy?”

Performing for children is such a great look into what kids want. So when was William ‘born’ after that & what has been his journey?

Bud Santora
It wasn’t until 1988 that I wrote my first children’s story and it was Wise Bear William. Teamed up with my illustrator, Bud Santora, from the very beginning, we created a giant black and white dummy book, landed an agent surprisingly quickly and she spent about a year trying to sell the project to publishing houses. The tone of the book, more classic in storytelling with rich, saturated illustrations, was not the flavor of the year. It wasn’t the flavor of the next decade! But Bud and I knew we had “something”. In 1992, Phylicia Rashad discovered the project, fell in love with it and optioned it as an animated feature film with music. It was shopped around Hollywood and ended up at Paramount. Ultimately they did a “demographic” of the project and we discovered once again that it just wasn't the right time for this type of story. 1995 a television producer entered the picture and optioned Wise Bear William but it never materialized. A couple of years later, a literary agency discovered “William” and for about two years aggressively tried to market it as a book again, but they fell short. In the meantime, Bud and I had gone on to other projects and we put the project to sleep.

One can never say something was born overnight with you! You have really stayed with the project and how wonderful it found a life in 2011.

I'd say it was the success of my novels and with the world in a post 9/11 mindset and the US in a very tentative state and clearly in a recession, Bud and I sensed this may be “William’s” time. It’s a story of patience, hope and integrity. It demonstrates that if you hold onto your beliefs and do good in the world, you’ll be rewarded. So we published Wise Bear William: A New Beginning as a children’s picture book in December of 2011 and we’re both thrilled with the results.

What were some challenges/differences in publishing a children's book?

I thought publishing my novels was a task but creating children’s books is a huge challenge. Creating them to our standards. Bud works in “illustrator” and “photoshop” and has created luscious and intricate illustrations that are, as we found, tricky to translate to publication, both as a book and eBook.

Tell us about the book version.

With novels, you format your manuscript into the required format, create the cover…and that’s about it. With a children’s picture book there are so many things that can go awry. Bud could have created a “simpler” version of the book but a big part of what really makes the story work, is the way each page is literally framed and behind the frames is a repeat “wallpaper” that is really tricky to line up when printing. Color has to be perfect and type and quality of paper plays a huge factor. Softcover versions, the paper tends to absorb more of the ink, whereas hardcover is a glossier paper eliminating that problem. However, many publishing companies were hesitant to create hardcover versions of our work because it’s a very expensive venture. “Wise Bear William” is available in hardcover – but by specialty order (meaning they can get one by contacting me directly). The publishing company will not distribute him, I guess, fearing they may not make their money back. I’m here to prove them wrong.

So many things we never think about in dealing with print. eBooks must be difficult for picture books as well?

Can you spell “nightmare”? The bottom line is Kindle can’t support what we have created. Maybe that’s why we see so many children’s books, in print and eBook, with simple line drawings and little “vignettes”. But Bud and I had a vision and we stuck to it. We tried a million different ways but Kindle couldn’t handle it. However iBook could. And “William” looks glorious on iPads, iPhones and iPods and is fantastic for parents traveling with their children. New specs are out from Kindle enabling viewing of full color children’s books with their new devices but still, the experience is limited because the Kindle itself is so small. I’m sure they will come up with a solution to compete with iBook.

It sounds as if Bud was always there working with you so images were in your head, but did you write the story first?

Yes, Bud was working side-by-side with me on this project from day one. And that’s rare. Often, in traditional publishing, the house will pair up a writer with an illustrator and you’re stuck with whom you get. Bud and I worked off each other: his illustrations and ideas influenced the manuscript, my ideas are reflected in the illustrations.

The real Blanket Bear
But the story was there first. In fact, it’s based upon a stuffed toy I have called Blanket Bear. Made from my Scottish grandfather’s World War I army blanket, I often wondered what memories must be woven into him. It was decided that the character’s name would be changed to Wise Bear William but Blanket Bear does appear in earlier stories of “William”. His characters name is changed to Old Teddy Tartan.

Having read the book, I love hearing the back story on William! What differences do you see in writing for children?

It was very clear, during the editing and proofing phase, that writing for children is really a challenge. I scoured the script, word by word, making sure everything was perfect. Although “William” is few pages in length, it’s a huge story. And children hang onto every word you write. It had to be perfect. One wrong choice and it could throw the entire tone and message off.

Have you found marketing to be different from those of your adult novels?

It’s not really different than marketing my novels. You just have to find your audience. And one of the most powerful ways of doing that is through “bloggers”. Powerful bloggers. And some “mommies” out there are powerhouses! And with some research, you find the right magazines and publications to approach. But basically, for me, the formula is the same.

Will there be more adventures for Wise Bear William?

There are ten books in the Wise Bear William series. Wise Bear William: A NewBeginning is the last chapter in the series. The previous chapters lead up to this story and there’s the possibility we will start with the beginning one, First Night In The Attic and continue in a linear fashion or we may jump a bit. Bud and I are still meditating on it.

But we are also going to create a Halloween book and possibly some others based around holidays. There is a Christmas book already lined up. On my end, the manuscripts are done. For Bud, there is so much work involved. He needs more time to catch up with me. And we’re hoping that Hollywood will come knocking again. We both believe, and with the help of the success of the books, that the movie version, The Life And Times Of Wise Bear William, will become a realization as well.

Such great information from a truly prolefic writer. Check out Arthur at www.arthurwooten.com or follow him on twitter at @ArthurWooten

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Silence Full of Laughter

Going to the theater is about escaping our everyday lives and getting lost for a few hours (or in the case of Silence! The Musical 90 minutes). Those that know me can attest to the fact I'm drawn to tragedy and angst on stage. But this weekend, the comedies I saw were just what the doctor ordered. From Priscilla on Saturday to Silence! on Sunday, it was a weekend full of laughs.

Yes, they have created a musical based on the much loved film The Silence of the Lambs...that's right, musical! Doing a parody of a work takes a lot of know-how and control. Like an SNL skit that goes too long, they can get old fast. But the creative team behind this show teetered on that line in a great way - keeping the audience engaged for all 90 minutes of the intermission-less play. 10 people play so many roles, you'll think you're watching an old Carol Burnett show. For those that know the movie well, you will laugh until your sides hurt from the way these actors (many of them from Broadway including David Garrison giving an awesome Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal (that many will remember from Married With Children). One reason this show works so well is the fact the music is catchy (even some great ballads) complete with a dream 'See You Next Tuesday' Ballet! Jon Kaplan & Al Kaplan have written a great score and Hunter Bell (from [title of show] fame) a clever book.

I've spent many weekends seeing those silly 11:30 pm shows that run at a NY cabaret that only cater to a certain clientele. This show surpassed those: yet still perform in an Off-OFF Broadway venue in the East Village, use very limited sets and props (but use them brilliantly), and has a very talented cast of people working their rears off! It truly demonstrates what New York Theater is about: diversity at its best. You can go uptown and spend hundreds of dollars on a flashy Broadway show when you are in the mood or find these wonderful (I'll use the word: "indie") small shows that have won awards (The Fringe Festival in 2005) and are entertaining audiences on a completely different level. 

And sometimes - that's exactly what we want. As a composer who was in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop and spent time attempting to get musicals presented in NY, I applaud these creators who can not only get a show mounted - but then get a full downtown run even seven years after presenting at Fringe. And as an indie writer - I always want to support those people in whatever medium they are presenting in.

Kudos to all involved! I love seeing Deidre Goodwin (who has wowed audiences over and over in Chicago) dressed up like a lamb and giving a nod to that show she played numerous times as well as the lead Jenn Harris (who I've never seen) that had me rolling with every nuance of Jodie Foster that she made.  

I never like to sit on the front row of a show, but this was well worth it: we were in the FBI seats! I say if you want a laugh and you know the movie where you can recite the lines; (and not easily offended by language or partial nudity) you're going to love it.


Check out the video on their website
  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Response to Equality...getting better?



Recently one can't turn on the television, open a newspaper, or launch a news website without seeing some talk about gay marriage. It seems to be a hot topic on everyone's tongue from activists to conservatives to politicians. I truly feel as if we're in the middle of a huge change in our country that one day we will look back on as a turning point in our history. But to get there, it takes people discussing it, forming views, and hopefully...changing a few as well.

Even reality TV gets in to it with the show "What Would You Do?" They want to see how people in America react to so many different situations and many times, it is something gay-themed. From a gay service man returning from overseas to a man proposing to another. That one (that just aired) really was amazing in that the 15 strangers they 'tested', only ONE showed any annoyance to the gay proposal. Others seemed happy for the couple (taking photos, applauding) or at least stating they have a right to the same happiness.

Today I saw "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" on Broadway again. (I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it even more this time and felt the leads have grown into an incredible ensemble of 'family'.) For those that do not know, it is about three drag queens that head across Australia so that one can go and see his son. (Yes son - this was based on a movie from the 90s when gay and father were not said in the same sentence as much as we hear in 2012.) What really got to me today (especially for a matinee audience which historically is always older people), was the response of the crowd to not only enjoying the show, but the tender moments as well. I actually witnessed an older gentleman across the aisle from me wiping away tears when the father/son had a poignant scene. 

Are we as a society becoming more understanding? Do these moments ring true to people or is it because it's on stage or in a movie that it can affect people? I hope that it really is more people are beginning to see that everyone deserves happiness. Gay or straight: it doesn't matter. Obviously straight people (at least Hollywood) are not showing us that they know how to handle marriage. If its about the sanctity, then perhaps people should not be able to toss marriage aside so lightly. But I hope as the witnesses on ABC's TV show to the gay proposal or the tourists who are taking in Broadway shows see a glimpse into a world they may not know - perhaps they'll see it's really not that different. My civil union partner and I sit on the sofa, watch TV, play Words with Friends on our computers, and live life just like our heterosexual counterparts. 

The Priscilla cast sings it at every show: 

Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better,
We belong, we belong, we belong together.

So true.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

It seems just at the time when you may be feeling overwhelmed or need a pick me up, the universe will shine down in unusual ways. Today it came via a tweet saying I had been nominated for a Kreativ Blogger award by @write_hook. Otherwise known as Scott Morgan, he is an excellent author, blogger, editor and all around - very cool guy (that I've had the privilege of meeting beyond the virtual world of twitter). I appreciate him thinking of me to honor me with this award...just to know someone finds my blog useful/informative/or good for a laugh is okay by me!


Part of being nominated means there are some things you have to do. 1) Share ten random things readers may not know about you and 2) nominate 6 others for the award.


This is hard for me because my life is such an open book, but here we go with random things:
1) One of my first jobs in NYC was cleaning apartments and office buildings. (The strange part was, someone else was cleaning my own apartment...try and make sense of that one!) 
2) I once spent over two hours stalking Barbra Streisand in Central Park. (It paid off: she had a 30 second conversation with me.)
3) I hate being out of control...for that reason, you'll never find me on a water slide in one of those water parks. (Well, I also hit my head on one back in 1990...so that may have something to do with it as well.)
4) My freshman year of high school, I was one of the few that took the challenge to eat dinner blind-folded to see what Helen Keller went through. (Okay...so I was a kiss-up with the teachers too...but I did want to see what it would be like to be blind.)
5) I've always proudly called myself a PC - from the PC/MAC commercial wars...but Apple has invaded my home through iPhone, iPad (and now the Macbook Pro that I'm typing this on) - not sure I can still say PC.
6) I completely suck at math. It was the bane of my existence through school and I still use my fingers to count. (Is that sharing too much?)
7) I was once attacked by a mob of screaming kids and parents on Easter weekend making me feel like Jesus. (I suppose I should also say I was dressed as a Ninja Turtle, had just completed a show and parents were screaming at their kids to 'touch him!' towards the man in the green suit.)
8) When I was a child, I used to drink the pickle juice out of the jar in the fridge when no one was looking. (Let's call that a precursor to my adult years when I now drink olive juice...mixed with vodka of course for a nice dirty martini.)
9) I hate shopping. (I know, I know - as a gay man I'm supposed to enjoy it: but as my sister says "I didn't get THAT gene or the one that says I'm good at decorating.")
10) I can still recall the stairwell at the World Trade Center in NYC as I walked down 98 floors during the '93 bombing (two weeks after I had started a part-time job there: part time that led to a 13 year career.)


I nominate the following people for this award:
1) Arthur Wooten - @arthurwooten Arthur was one of the first authors I met on twitter (after seeing his name everywhere) whose writing I have devoured. He is so helpful, believes in supporting other authors, and is an amazing writer! (He also came to my debut novel book launch in NYC so we could meet in person!)
2) Traci Ford - @GSand1804 Traci is someone I know in real life and not just online. But what I love about her blogging is that she covers so many different topics and is not afraid to speak her mind.  I so admire that.
3) Carey Parrish @careyparrish Carey is a twitter author I met through a string of others who I instantly took a liking to. Not only is his writing delightful, but his blogs and interviews of other authors are truly eye-opening and informative while making people feel so comfortable. A great guy to follow.
4) Alina Oswald @ANO07 Alina was is a writer and a photographer I met on twitter who I noticed kept re-tweeting my tweets. Eventually we started 'talking' more and I found her to be such a kind, cool, supportive person. (You must read her new biography!)
5) Jack Andrew Urquhart @JackAUrquhart Jack is an incredible storyteller, wonderful supporter on twitter, and a blogger who covers so many subjects. Definitely worth the follow!
6) Kergan Edwards-Stout @EdwardsStout Kergan is the most recent twitter friend I've made, but we made an instant connection through our debut novels'  and then our similarities in life. A very giving person who understands what a platform is and how to use social media. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Identity Crisis


Do you ever notice those people in your life that you can't quite figure what image they are trying to portray? Don't get me wrong. We all change personas based on who we are with - but those that are trapped in 'college time' (where one is supposed to decide who they are going to be)? Fighting in themselves to create an identity. I see it around us - on television, in the news. Famous people that lose weight but have been known for being big have to completely switch gears. Now their platform is all about weight loss (and I worry for when they gain it back, because this big guy knows it always comes back). Certain TV stations that can't seem to find their identity about who they want to be. Their programming is all over the place and they seem to have issues with finding an audience.

I was recently talking to a writer about how authors need to create an identity when they 'find their voice'. Fiction or non-fiction: they still have that which makes them who they are on the page. It took me a while (and sometimes I still don't see my own), but I can see it in others and people have pointed it out to me. Writers have to decide if they want to be sarcastic, informative, witty, care-free...you can see it in many blogs. (Think of some of your favorites now and you'll notice what pulls you in.) That voice that creates an engaging identity and demands you read them!

I marvel at those who have an "I don't give a flip" attitude and can say whatever they want. (A certain friend of mine can do it in her facebook updates and I literally L.O.L.) I tend to teeter on the edge in my writing. Naturally, writing fiction - my characters can speak however they feel - but Greg has to be sure and get his own voice heard when blogging, writing articles, narrative, etc.

So many people give advice on writing and how to handle themselves. I just give opinion. And that is: decide how you want others to perceive you and work towards enhancing that identity to work fully in your favor. 

You'll be happier not having to be Jekyll and Hyde.  



Thursday, January 19, 2012

indie is NOT a bad Word

Like most indie artists, I spend much time attempting to carve out my own tiny parcel of the artistic landscape. Whatever field you may be creating your vision, we all hope for that piece of the pie. Sure, we watch the names that rise to the top of the indie charts and wonder what their secret is. But we can't get lost in trying to be them, because we're not. We are ourselves. 


There are so many things one does to build a platform. From blogging, to engaging in forum discussions, to following other artists in our fields. All with the dream of microscopic expansion. I recently was doing one of those very exercises of "Liking" other author's Facebook pages (in hope they return the love) and what I found was so many people exactly like me. Not one of them is Dan Brown or Jodi Picoult, but each doing (hopefully) what they love. Creating art in their own way and wanting to share it with others. (And finding time to retreat and write their next book while marketing the existing one.)


I heard an amazing radio interview the other morning with indie filmmaker/actor Edward Burns on the Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on Sirius Radio. He spoke of how many in his shoes hope to be discovered and pulled out of the indie world, but he never wanted that. He wanted to be the "Long Island Woody Allen" and make interesting films that showed a splice of his life. He also shared how technology continues to change the playing field. Indie musicians discovered they can do music in the basement and sell their work. Authors have been able to get their books into hands of readers at low cost thanks to eBooks. And filmmakers can shoot a film for much less now and then distribute it using On Demand television instead of praying that a screen in NYC and LA will show their film.


There is so much to be learned from reading how artists are doing what they can to make themselves heard...even if that sound is so small, only a handful are around to enjoy it. But be thankful for that handful. Friends and family talk. Bloggers give honest opinions. And before you know it, strangers are writing to you saying your art has touched them in a profound way.


As Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell said in the hit musical [title of show] - which started as a small indie musical:


"I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing
Than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing."  



Monday, January 16, 2012

Where Are You Most Still?

Like most Americans, I have a tough time slowing down. I'm always going (if not physically, than mentally) and moving to the next 'thing'. I love to vacation, but even that takes me a few days to grow accustom to the pace. I've often said the place I feel most at peace is when I cross the bridge going onto Cape Cod and I feel my shoulders relax as I smell the sea air. Something about that place is able to calm me.


This past weekend I attended a book signing of Ilchi Lee for his book The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart. Already reading the book, I find myself somewhat jealous of people who can commune with nature and God in such a way they can simply - relax. (It's always seemed to me it's the Hollywood rich folks that can afford to relax.) But as I read his book, I find myself anticipating my spring trip to Sedona more and more. I haven't been there in over 20 years and I was so young at the time, I doubt those rocks were saying anything to me. But I believe this trip to be different. A town that closes down by 9:00 pm, that is truly about finding self and enjoying the beauty of the land - I really think I'm going to enjoy it.


I'm already one that has tried yoga. I believe in acupuncture and know it has helped the headaches I often get...and trust me; my body can scream out to me when it is stressed through headaches, stomach aches, mouth ulcers - you name it: stress punches me from the inside out. So giving myself over to the thought process behind his book shouldn't be too far of a reach for me. 


Something in Lee's book beckons me to find that calmer self in the midst of the chaos. I think all things happen for a reason in our life...at a certain time. Maybe turning 43 in Sedona (yes, we'll be there for my birthday) is what I'm meant to experience. I'm sure there was a reason I set my upcoming book in Arizona (without even knowing why) - a book about a woman's personal journey to patch her life back together as she searches for her 'self' - but perhaps it will all become known to me in a few months.


Now I know what you're thinking: But I'm not going to turn into one of those people who get all out there and start wearing colors based on feelings and setting the furniture in my house a certain way (not that there is anything wrong with that) - but if I can discover a new way of finding peace and sanctuary...I'm all for it.


I look forward to sharing the trip with all when I blog about it in April. And I leave you with this...do you have that place you can retreat to and be still? (And if you don't have to leave your home to find it, my guess is you've already won.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Observations From Social Media


So I've been following writers, blogs, trends online for a while now and there are a few things I've noticed that I felt like sharing. (The following observations are those of Gregory G. Allen only and do not represent the entire writing world.)

  1. There really is a fine line between annoying people about your book and gently reminding them your book is out there for them to snatch up.
  2. There are some amazing people who love to pay it forward by sharing the word about someone else's book, interview, contest winning - truly wonderful ones who help others network beyond their own regular followers.
  3. People that review or write critiques seem to want to talk about the book THEY would have written instead of the one they read. Now, this isn't true of everyone that writes reviews - but many seem to critique on what it's not rather than what it is.
  4. You don't have to post something new on twitter everyday. It moves so quickly, your tweet quickly is hidden.  Post the same one throughout the day at different times or better yet: re-tweet something of interest someone else has tweeted. (Another way to pay it forward.)
  5. The indie versus traditional fight continues...and it will for time to come as more and more books find their way onto our eReaders. I'm grateful for both worlds (though I will admit: I read more indie books in 2011 than I did traditional published books). Why choose? Enjoy both.
  6. Social media IS a great way to meet those editors and designers that indie authors need to utilize. You can find recommendations from others and really get to know those that could be potential people you plan to work with. A short list: Write Hook - Melanie Votaw - Marilyn Weishaar - Brion Sausser - Vedic Design
  7. There are people who seem to want to play in the indie pool, but secretly want to 'escape'. In this new era of publishing, I'm certain a traditional publisher could offer me a great deal more marketing and getting a huge display of my books on the first table when you walk into Barnes & Noble - but I still prefer the smaller presses that take chances. Tradition has told me what I do isn't playing by the rules. I can't always write the book the big guns want that will sell tons of copies. But what I can do is attempt to touch lives with my quirky and twisted stories...and that's what I'll keep doing until readers have declared they've had enough of my cross-genre writing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Awarding One's Work

This past weekend, I found out that the 2011 Short List for the Indie Lit Awards came out and there was Well With My Soul on the list! It is always such a thrill to see your work - your baby - listed among the names of other authors (especially when you see books you've also read and admired). I am so thankful to all the readers who nominated my book for this - as that is how books are brought to the attention of this panel. And now the judges will read the list of books to decide on winners.


It made me start to think about awards and contests and I wanted to share my views. I'm well aware you talk to two different people - two different opinions will come, but here are mine.


Art is very subjective. But just like we send off our books to be reviewed, it is wonderful to know your work is being read/reviewed by a panel of judges who are looking for what they presume to  'rise to the top'. Just like a five star rating on Amazon, one judge may like your work and then another could be like a three star rating that makes its way onto your reviews - you know the ones that cut like a knife (but it does happen to every writer at some point: or at least most every writer). For me, having my book on a short-list or making it as a finalist (as I did with the USA "Best Books 2011" Awards) means there is potential for more readers to learn about who I am and possibly pick up the book and talk about it with their own friends. 


Choosing which contest to get involved in is a whole other story. There are many: from short stories to poetry to novels. Many of them have entrance fees (and they are not always cheap). So plan wisely. Do your homework. And know that paying a fee does not constitute paying for a win. (Though society does show us paying gets you things. I hope readers understand that stars do not magically appear on the Hollywood walk-of-fame: the honorees pay for that 'honor'.) 


That said. Here are a few suggestions I have:

  1. Make a list of awards/contest that interest you and mark down their deadlines.
  2. Make sure you are interested in the right contest for your book. (I'm not going to put my chick-lit novel into a Texas Westerns contest.) But you can do multiple categories with the same story.
  3. Investigate the contest. Does everyone that is nominated become a finalist simply by entering? You can see a list of previous noms and finalists to get that information. (Personally, I prefer to stay clear of those as to not 'cheapen' the excitement of making it to a finalist list.)
  4. Don't spend a fortune. Look for ones that do not have entrance fees. Yes the pool will be larger, but your wallet will be happier.
I realize some writers want to write and not be pulled into a competition type of atmosphere and I respect that. For me, I want to reach as many people as possible and if placing my name into this (often) national arena can help to do that - I'm all for it. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I want to affect and touch people. Having your name on that awards list is a great way to reach a new set of strangers to do that very thing. 



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Change Shoes and the Walk Feels the Same

Last night I had two instances where "walking in someone else's shoes for a split moment" jumped out and punched me in the face. While watching an episode of the new Celebrity Wife Swap - I was instantly thrown into a place of disbelief that pastor Ted Haggard could be on there. (Both for being called a celebrity as well as the numerous jokes that can come to mind when thinking of this man wanting to swap mates.) But as I watched, I found myself saddened more and more by what I witnessed. 


I've often said in interviews it was the "Ted Haggards" of the world that inspired me to write Well With My Soul, so I'll admit I have a clouded view of people's ability to live in the truth. And honestly - who am I to judge what is and what isn't his own personal truth. But when I look at the man through the huge grin he plasters across his face; I see pain. Perhaps that pain is from the shame the scandal brought to his family. Perhaps it is looking at his wife and kids daily and having a constant reminder of all he has lost. Or just maybe...maybe it is because he is unable to declare who he is and find peace from that. I'm not questioning the love he has for his wife...I believe he truly loves her. But if only society would allow people to have that love for themselves so they could be honest about who they are and not treat homosexuality as Satan tempting Eve in the garden.


His shoes; not mine.


I can hear people saying "we can live openly as gay men" - but can we? Is it 'safe' for everyone? As much as we see marriage equality making it's way into more states (Yay Hawaii and let's go Washington) - there are still a huge amount of Americans who would love to keep that tucked away in a closet and not be faced with it in their lives. 


And the GOP Presidential hopefuls are right there in the thick of it - making same sex marriage an issue every chance they can get. Last night, when Rick Santorum made his speech in Iowa - I found myself  planted firmly in his shoes as he quoted C.S. Lewis. "A Friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you've forgotten the words." he went on to say his best friend, his life mate who sings that song when he forgets the words is his wife. What a lovely sentiment. Truly. But is there any reason why he can't change those shoes just once and not understand that is the same love and feelings I have for my life mate? The one who has been by my side for almost 12 years now? 


Why can't people stop for a moment and see there are many kinds of shoes in this huge closet we call Earth? Colors, sizes, flats and heels: variety is good. And if it makes you happy to walk in them - if you can find the peace you are looking for...it's not hurting anyone else. 
      

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stop Before Out of Control

I'm returning to the title of this blog. 


Fat man attempting to shed pounds. Like so many others who use the first week in January to 'make a change' - I've decided it was time before I got to the size I was before. Last spring I started NutriSystem and was pleased with the results. 
2011         -        2010
Though I had always said I lost 45 pounds (and at one point, I had) I actually crunched the numbers and found I lived around a 40 pound drop for most of the summer and into fall. And then fall meant book touring (which was eating and drinking in different towns) and all those holidays and 'poof' - ten pounds came back. So now as what I had dubbed my "skinny pants" (yes, in my world they were) are starting to pinch, I knew it was time. I refuse to pull out the fat pants: instead I placed my order last week and the box of packaged food arrived on my porch on Friday.


Instead of looking at the negative of putting pounds back on, I can still say I'm down 30 pounds from where I was at this point last year. But now, I'd love to join Janet Jackson and drop another 30 this year (before I arrive in Punta Cana for my sister's destination wedding in June). I think I can do it! 


Jan 2012
The first week is always the hardest. My body wants to scream at me and cry out "WHY"??? It was used to eating what and when it wanted. And now, it's learning to be regimented again with small (tasty) meals. But there is a cost that comes with it. Your body says "oh yeah? take this!" And it acts out with headaches, dizziness and a multitude of other things I won't go in to. But at least I know, after the first few days - my body and I will once again remember what it was like and know we can survive on less food.


So here we go. It still ain't over 'til this fat guy is skinny...and he's got a nice bumpy road to head down now.