Monday, June 25, 2012

Publishing Update and Review

Well, the best way to summarize my experience with the publishing industry presently is crickets.  Maybe the agents and editors are all on vacation; maybe they are all at conferences; or maybe they are all just hunkered down somewhere reading manuscripts.  So, in the meantime, I am continuing to read memoir.  I just finished the book The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen.  I am attempting to broaden my memoir horizons by reading memoirs written by and about men; big applause from my husband.  This particular book was a journey about a guy who actually did leave his last thirty dollars in a telephone booth in the year 2000 and then basically went to live in the Moab Desert.  He grew up in a fundamentalist household in Colorado and slowly becomes disenfranchised with our capitalist system of buying and selling as well as debt and credit.  Admirably, he worked at several interesting career positions where he assisted in a homeless shelter and a women's shelter.  He did not like the abuses of the system by his boss at one place nor the way people were treated at these facilities.  He even travels to India initially to pursue Hinduism, but eventually he studies Buddhism and the life of a monk.  If I remember correctly, at one point he joins the peace corp and lives and
serves abroad.  The main point comes when Suelo as this man is known drives his car off a cliff  in order
to commit suicide and lives.  If there ever was a person that "goes with the flow", it is truly this man.  At one point, he drives with two people to Alaska and takes on salmon fishing.  He works at community gardens, participates in the concept of Free Meals, and basically could be classified as a jack of all trades.  In this book he has made his home in a cave in the Moab desert.  He routinely goes searching for food in dumpsters.  Honestly, at various points throughout the book I was fearful for him.  I am glad he found peace,
security, and happiness living without money, but I have to say it is definitely not for me. 

I would worry about the following issues:  brushing my teeth and having my teeth cleaned every four months; cleanliness, food (I am not one to dumpster dive), medications (if I didn't take these I probably would have gone blind, deaf, and fallen over dead a while ago); medical care; shelter (I don't even like camping much less cave dwellings; clothes (I really like having freshly laundered clothes; if I had to wash them in a river I probably could, but what about wrinkles and appearing disheveled); water (I would probably obtain a parasite drinking from a river and that would be the end of me); shoes and deodorant (I do not have as many pairs of shoes as some of my acquaintances, but I refuse to smell bad); hair cuts ( I have short hair and I don't like long hair.  Yes I could cut my own hair, but that could be disastrous); travel (I am not one to hitch a ride with any person because there's a good chance I would never be seen again or found dead); and finally, I think the one premise I agree with Suelo on is finding spirituality in nature because let's face it, I know way too many supposed "Christians" who attend church every Sunday and are still some of the most greedy, evil people I come across on a weekly basis.  Just drive around Atlanta and watch how many people with Jesus bumper stickers cut you off, cuss you out, or just plain veer into your lane and run you off the road.  So while I admire this man for his courage to lead a simple life without money, I know I could not lead the same life.  Also, what is more important is that I do not think I would want to live this type of life.  I still think you can be moderately secure monetarily and be quite generous as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Publishing Update and Review

Since June 1st I have given my manuscript to two literary agents and have a small publishing house that has asked for completion of an author questionnaire and book brief.  I did have one publisher call and ask me to email the first three chapters of the book; however, the cell connection was not good and neither the email address or phone number he gave me proved valid.  In the meantime I just work on reading and reviewing other memoirs and writing my next manuscript.

I decided to branch out and read some memoirs written by men.  I know, it is truly shocking.  Female writers are so more forthright in their writing; I liked the concept of writing without pulling your punches.  I picked up the memoir Mrs Kennedy And Me by Clint Hill, Special Agent, United States Secret Service.  It appears he also had the help of another writer by the name of Lisa McCubbin.  Mr. Hill was assigned at the beginning of the JFK administration to the security detail of Mrs. Kennedy.  He was not exactly thrilled by this to say the least.  Mrs. Kennedy had already dispensed with the first secret service agent assigned to her.  I think Mr. Hill had been on LBJ's security detail and it proved rewarding so he thought he would not get near the action, drama, and world exposure with a first lady.  WRONG!  Mrs. Kennedy proved to be one of our more active and stylish first ladies.  She and Mr. Hill appeared to get along well.  He was able to anticipate her requirements when traveling and he usually tried to accomodate her request to be able to live her life and participate in all the activities she was accustomed without interference or limitations. 

Mrs. Kennedy spent a fair amount of time in Florida as did Mr. Hill.  He perused her mail to make sure nothing adverse came to Mrs. Kennedy including the hate mail.  John and Caroline were around the ages of his children so he was also an asset in assisting with the children.  The funniest parts are when the reader learns of all the activities Mr. Hill had to learn just to be able to keep up with Mrs. Kennedy as her security detail.  She was really rather shy and did not like crowds, but she learned to blossom and become a great resource for her husband and ambassador for the U.S.  Her travels were immense.  She liked to vacation in Greece.  She traveled to Paris, India, Pakistan Italy, and Cape Cod.  Mr. Hill blended with this family well. What was most touching is that Mr. Hill realized how much tragedy Mrs. Kennedy had known in her short life span.  She had miscarried, given birth to a son who then died a week later, and was the person sitting next to the President when he was shot riding in an open convertible in Dallas.  She literally had his head in her lap the whole way to the hospital.  Mr. Hill was the agent covering her and the President while straddling the back of the convertible.  Not only was this incident traumatizing for Mr. Hill, but Mrs. Kennedy appeared to never be the same.  She waited in the hospital for doctors to try and save her husband sitting in a chair outside the operating room in her dress and pillbox hat spattered with blood, bone fragments, and pieces of President Kennedy's brain.  The light in her eyes was extinguished according to Mr. Hill.  And yet Mrs. Kennedy flew with the President's body back to the White House and participated in the swearing in of LBJ while in flight.  At one point, she rushed to Mr. Hill asking what he would do now?  In other words, what would he be assigned by the secret service.  She made sure following the funeral of her husband and move to Georgetown that Mr. Hill and the security detail in charge of her children were commended for their service and made available to rise within the ranks of the secret service.

Mrs. Kennedy died of lymphoma in 1994.  Mr. Hill was sure he would be long gone before Mrs. Kennedy ever was so it was as shocking to him as it was to the rest of us.  Mrs. Kennedy was a class act and such an incredibly strong woman.  Clint Hill's memoir Mrs Kennedy And Me is now one of my most recommended to read memoirs.  What a gentleman.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review: Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

In Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult the subjects of death, organ donation, family strife, and unity are all addressed equally well.  Ms. Picoult is never shy about addressing difficult and sticky issues and she does not disappoint in Lone Wolf.  The reader begins with a family divided.  Mom and dad have split.  Dad is a conservationist and researches wolves.  He even goes so far as to infiltrate their packs and live with them.  His exploits go too far though when he goes away for a year to live with wolves in Canada, leaving his wife, son, and daughter to fend for themselves.  Eventually, the wife leaves her husband and divorces him.  Their shared son turns eighteen, has a confrontation with the father, and suddenly leaves and never returns for six years.  This leaves the youngest child living with her mom up until mom remarries and has newborn twins with her new husband.  The daughter feels like a third wheel in this new family her mom has so she goes to live with her conservationist dad.  Only problem is he operates a summer wildlife park where he keeps wolves.  A tragedy occurs and one of the family members winds up on a ventilator and in a vegetative state.  The son returns home for the first time in six years and three family members are faced with the prospect of making a decision for one of their own concerning whether to maintain or terminate life support.  Once again, the family is divided and it is only after a temporary guardian is appointed for the family member in the hospital and a judge's ruling of who to give decision making power to for one of their own that the family unifies enough to make a decision.

This was a difficult read for me.  If you have ever been in the position of having to make a decision regarding a loved one's life or death following a traumatic injury, you will more fully understand the struggle this family has.  You have to reconcile what you think the family member in the vegetative state would have wanted for him/herself in this position, particularly if there is no living will.  You also have to contend with your own feelings and convictions of what constitutes a meaningful life.  I did find it hard to believe that someone like the conservationist dad in this story could actually gain partial custody given some of his research endeavors.  It also made me wonder if someone from the community would not have called social services given the obsessive nature of this dad toward his research.  He is so focused on his wolves that I sometimes felt he had not the first clue as to the health and well-being of his daughter.  The other problem I had with this book is that the son, who is a straight A student and could have had his pick of colleges, just up and decides he is leaving the family and moving half way around the world.  I think, given my experience with students, that it is more likely a student of this caliber would have chosen a college clear across the country in order to not have to interact with dad or associate with his dad as opposed to moving to Thailand.  Why discard your potential career and happiness just because you can't stand your father and think he is a hypocrite? 

The one portion of this book that really made me examine my own life is the struggle the family has with organ donation.  In this book's case, just because a family member in a vegetative state has a driver's license indicating he/she is an organ donor, does not mean that organ donation can or necessarily will happen upon that person's death.  It depends on whether the individual was actually registered and if upon death, the organs can actually be sustained for harvesting.  Sometimes, life doesn't go as planned, and it is not possible for the organs to be utilized for donation.  There is definitely no lack of big issue, thought provoking detail in this book and I would expect no less from author Jodi Picoult.