Tracing a Story

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Genealogy, n. An account of one’s descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.~ Ambrose Bierce

Isn’t it interesting how others can motivate us? In yesterday’s blog I mentioned being inspired by members of our local genealogy group to begin tracing a story in my family history.

When I see the work of others, I get all fired up even when it comes to putting my energy into something I didn’t think I had much interest in. But I am beginning to get stoked up.

magnifying-glass-over-business-text-10920164One woman in our group has traced family members who came twenty-seven generations before her. She has located information about her Scottish ancestors born in the 800’s, mapping out her family tree with names, birth dates, places of death and towns of residence. A phenomenal amount of research!

Another member has compiled so much material it’s contained in a tome-sized binder. Very well organized! Now she is considering what to do with all the data, images and pedigree charts.

Others have traveled to their ancestors hometowns all over the world and taken gravestone rubbings, spoken with historians, museums and community town fathers who have helped them reveal some important facts and figures to complete their stories.

It’s sad to think how many important stories in history get lost because of people’s disinterest in keeping them alive through writing. No doubt it is easier just to live in the present.

If you have even the slightest interest in your family history, check out this website. You may come across something that could become your own version of a Gift of Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

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Christmas: Outside Looking In

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I believe your atmosphere and your surroundings create a mind state for you. ~ Theophilus London

f9ccaa0aad84c2adde61047a62449dc8I don’t like to be a slave to my living environment, but I do take a little time to try to create a place where I like to hang out.  Just a few low cost/no cost seasonally appropriate decorations make a difference. It helps me appreciate a season or holiday. I do it for myself and after it’s done, I’m glad I took the extra effort.

Psychologists say our attitudes are affected by our environment. So, no matter where you are living, even if it is in what you might consider to less than ideal, take the time to add a little sprig of holly or a pine bough or a cinnamon scented candle or put a light in the window during this holiday season. Thrift stores are often a great place to pick up embellishments for nearly next to nothing.

Last week in the dark of the evening I upped my spirits when I strolled historic downtown Main Street Steamboat with a friend and took in the window dressing. The fresh fallen snow added to the magic! Here are some images. All but a few were taken from the outside looking in.

Below: Fringe (a new store in town). I liked it very much!

Do stop in and check it out!

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Below: F.M Light & Sons (THE place for cowboy boots!)

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Below: Kali’s Boutique (a place to get distinctive apparel)

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Below: Steamboat Art Company (this display was like fairytale land). I expected to see little gnomes or elves or sprites peaking out from between the pastel colored foliage!

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Below: Allen’s Clothing (There, hospitality included great treats!)

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Below: Steamboat Art Company (as usual, their window displays are as lovely as their in store wares). I always get caught up in this store – so much to look at.

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Below: Steamboat Art Company

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Below: F.M. Light and Sons (Outfittin’ the West Since 1905)

Check out their blog – A Cowboy’s Christmas Recollections

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Below: F.M. Light & Sons

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Below: Chrysalis Steamboat (surprisingly affordable and stylish). 

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A Fulfilling evening experience from Winter Wonderland in Steamboat Springs, CO

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“Paper state” last week we received 44 inches of new snow and we have already  surpassed 115 inches for the season! See for yourself. Much, much more has come over the past few days.

Thanks to those who gave me permission to take photos inside their retail establishments!

Come on back tomorrow to All Things Fulfilling. Then I’ll be taking a break until after Christmas.

This blog is brought to you by award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

Advancing the Story

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We need to look hard at the stories we create, and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them, and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that they give us their wisdom.Marni Gillard

Avila and wife MaribelLast week I sat down with author and playright Jorge Avila, a member of We Write Steamboat, to discuss the gigantic leap of success that he has just experienced. To read a short summary of his musical, please go to the blog from last Thursday.

(Photo left: Jorge Avila and his wife Maribel)

Jorge had just returned a week previously to his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado from a very busy six months in California. His live theatre musical, adapted from his book Maricopa Men in Pink had a three day run at the Plaza de la Raza, Cultural Center for the Arts & Education on Mission Road in Los Angeles. Avila was ebullient as he answered the questions I had for him to learn more about his experience. Here is part of our discussion about going from local author to playright in a very short few years:

Sue: Jorge, when was Maricopa Men in Pink published? 

Jorge: In 2010 it was published. A short time afterward I sent it off to a friend who is a stage designer in L.A. to get his opinion. He reviewed it and gave me some feedback about adapting it for a play. I decided that my vision for the work was a live theatre musical production. So I rewrote it exactly 2 years, nine months ago in script format along with song lyrics. Caleb Encompos, a resident who helps with the music program at the Christian Center here in Steamboat, composed the music to accompany the lyrics. I approached the Chief Theatre here in town, but it didn’t seem to be the right venue. So,then we sent it off to three production companies in California. 

Sue:  So, what was the response? 

Jorge: I’d like to say that there have been few  Latino or controversial political musicals that I am aware of other than In the Heights and Hamilton and the Book of Mormon. So I was happy to even get a response and it was positive response from two of them. I chose one of the production companies that I felt best understood my vision. I was offered a small sum of money from the production company, but I took half of that because I wanted to be directly involved in the entire process, so that the final product would be what I envisioned.

So, I began over the next six months going to L.A. one week out of every month. For the next six months, Caleb Encompos and I chose vocalists and actors for the live musical production. Once we heard my lyrics put to music and saw it performed by the actors we had chosen, there were some tweeks that were made before the opening.

Sue: So, tell me about the three night run.

Jorge: The turnout was outstanding compared to what I had anticipated. I was told for an unknown author/playright, typical sales would be 60% of the seats. The first and third nights we had 95% of all tickets sold, and the middle evening 75%. Surprising, considering I read in a New York Times article that out of 318 million Americans, 58 million agreed with Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s handling of inmates in Tent City Jail in Arizona. Seventy eight million disagreed, and the whole rest of the population knew nothing about the news story.

Sue: How did that feel? To see your musical come before live audience like that?

Jorge: Surreal! I feel flattered and proud but it was very stressful. I even started up a bad habit – smoking. I hadn’t smoked in six years and I ate too much and gained a little weight.

The musical was even mentioned on National TV on Spanish stations. While we were waiting for the production to begin on opening night, I stepped outside and there were 120 people in line to get a ticket – to my show! I couldn’t believe it and I counted every one of them!

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The rest of this interview on All Things Fulfilling will be posted the week after Christmas. Do return because we will be talking about Avila’s rewards in terms of personal fulfillment which were a result of his determination, persistance and his belief that what he had was fitting for a quality live musical production that still has great potential for future audiences. We will be sharing more about his special award from the City of Los Angeles also!

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, EVVY award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

 

 

Local Writer to Playright

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A culture is made –or destroyed –by it’s articulate voices. ~ Ayn Rand

Jorge Avila, a Mexican by birth, moved to the United States in 1995. Since then he has become an author of two books Suriana and the Sulphur Cave and Maricopa Men in Pink. The later is a controversial story about prisoners in Arizona and “Sheriff Joe” known in the media as “the toughest sheriff” around. He sentenced two thousand convicts to serve their sentences in pink underwear and handcuffs for better accountability. The macho men probably could not have been more insulted!

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Christmas came early to Avila, a member of We Write Steamboat our independent publishing network group, when his first publication Maricopa Men in Pink was  adapted as a musical and came to live theatre in Los Angeles. It had an extremely successful run with nearly booked houses each evening.

Stay tuned to All Things Fulfilling on Monday because we will be featuring an interview with him about what it has been like to go from local writer to a playwright within a very short few years. Avila was recently recognized as a person who has helped advance the arts in the LA area.

This blog is brought to you by author Sue Batton Leonard.

Flaws in Character and Writing

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Two weeks ago Charles Shields, author of 20 histories and biographies for young adults came to the Bud Werner Memorial Library to talk about his knowledge of Harper Lee and her two publications, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.

Shields publications Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee and I am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee reveal a multitude of little known facts about Lee’s childhood life prior to becoming an author.

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  • She left law school and moved to New York City to become an author. However, her dreams of becoming a full-time writer were delayed because she needed to find a way to pay her expenses, so she became an airline reservationist for a period of about eight or ten years.
  • A neighbor and playmate was Truman Capote, author of In Cold Blood
  • She and Capote hauled a 12 pound Underwood typewriter up to their tree house where they’d sit for hours and write and discuss ideas for stories.
  • Upon her fathers death, Harper Lee inherited her father’s watch, which she in turn gave to Gregory Peck who played her father (Atticus) in the 1962 movie To Kill A Mockingbird.

In his book talk, Shield’s certainly provided the audience with a wealth of information about the author and her two books. To sum it up, Shields says that “Mockingbird” asks the reader for compassion, while “Watchman” asks the reader for forgiveness. I agree with this statement. It helped me to  lay aside my own profound sadness for Scout when she finds out at the end of “Watchman” her father was not the man she thought he was.

During the Q & A session one of the audience members mentioned that she was bothered by the fact that “Watchman” was released in it the same form the original manuscript was written. I personally appreciated that the publication was released “unpolished.” I hope the lady in the audience can forgive and understand perhaps why “Watchman” was released without copy editing. I believe the “raw state” of the publication adds to the historical value to the writing from a Pulitzer-prize American author whose work has certainly held up to the test of time.

Tonight I look forward to the community discussion to wrap up the One Book Steamboat series, which has received attention from the National Library Association newsletter.

Thanks once again to Bud Werner Memorial Library for a fulfilling opportunity to learn all we can about one of America’s most beloved authors.

This blog is brought to you by EVVY award-winning author Sue Batton Leonard.

Collective Gal Power

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Anytime women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing.Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. ~ Phylicia Rashad

Last Friday after work I rode the bus into town. I heard two men talking and picked up from the conversation that their wive’s were attending a women’s group. Their husbands, apparently, were headed to one of the local pubs to sit at the bar for wings and beer.

“I just don’t get it,” one of the fellows said, “those women’s groups…. all they do is promote gossip. And they’re bad for diets. When my old lady gets home all she does is whine about how much she ate. I think those lady’s groups are all about having a space where they can complain about their kids and their husbands.”

“Really?” I thought, “That’s just plain sad. In my experience women’s groups are all about finding personal fulfillment in joint interests.”

Women who network create space where faith and hope prevail by learning from one another, sharing joys, talking about meaningful issues and by supporting each other. As a matter of fact, on Friday I learned something invaluable from a new acquaintance (I think her name is Joan) at the Sit and Stitch at Sew Steamboat. She taught me about “life lines” – a technique used in knitting, so that if you make an error, you don’t have rip all your work out and to go back to the beginning. I wondered why I hadn’t previously heard about this before? Now I’m apt to venture into knitting projects that are a little beyond my skill level since now I know there is a way to set up a safety net. If I make an error, I can still salvage the project and not have to trash it.

I can see that this knitting group at Sew Steamboat will become a valuable resource to me in the future. The owners of this shop is a collective of women. Here is the beautiful, colorful space they’ve created together. Makes a person want to sit down and take up a yarn!

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I’d like to hear from other women who find that women’s groups are their saving grace. How have they contributed to your well being? Post a comment to this blog. Maybe we can get a good conversation going right here on All Things Fulfilling.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard,  2014 EVVY award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

 

 

Community of Blessings

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Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world… It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.”
Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Last summer I mentioned to my mother and sister the fact that the harvest season does not seem to be as decorated in the West as in the East. “Perhaps that’s because Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, the place of the landing of the Pilgrims, is geographically closer, so the season of fall is more celebrated. But, I really don’t know what it is,” I admitted.

On Sunday I arrived at the doors of my church and found it beautifully decorated for the fall season. The blessings of community and sermons of life lessons, relevant to today’s world, are always inside these church doors.

IMG_20151011_084245_836 Reflections last week from the Rev. Tim Selby included the question “And How Are the Children?”  Unfortunately in this day and age with all of the incidents in schools we can’t confidently answer “All are safely gathered in.”IMG_20151011_084455_846

By the end of the sermon each and everyone of us hoped our prayers would be heard as we sang the closing hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

If you wish to hear the words of the message, keep your eye on the church website where recordings of each Sunday’s lessons are always posted.

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected and Lessons of Heart and Soul.