Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Dear Hillary:

I want to begin by saying a simple thank you.

Given how difficult the last few days have been for me (and all of your 50 million plus supporters), I can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of your own disappointment. You worked your entire life to get to this moment, and you deserved to be the one who finally cracked that massive glass ceiling. I hope it gives you some comfort to know that the majority of Americans agree: you currently lead in the popular vote by nearly half a million, and that total is expected to grow by at least another million before all the votes have been counted. The sadly outdated Electoral College has stolen your victory and, perhaps appropriately enough, has set our country on a path to return to the stone age, as my oldest daughter, Carrie, aptly put it last night. After all the progress our beloved country has made over the past 50 years, the men of our nation, and yes, sadly, plenty of women as well, have decided that ugly path is the one we should take. To what end, I have no idea, but I fear they shall all soon discover that a return to the Andy Griffith and Leave It To Beaver 1950s they recall so fondly is in fact not all that wonderful for the majority of Americans. Like Trump himself, those were television shows not based on any actual reality. The world has moved on, and so too must the country which the rest of the free world looks toward as its ultimate shining example.

I am writing this letter to you today because I want you to know how very much you have meant to me over the years. I was raised by my grandmother and her mother, so I know about strong, independent women. My grandmother lived to be 95, and as the last few months of this campaign wound down, I found myself wishing so badly that she were here to sit beside me, to hug and shake our heads and cry as we bask in your magnificent accomplishments. I will never forget that scene on the final night of the Democratic convention when you accepted the nomination. It still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. You are such an inspiration! Your accomplishments as a public servant are second to none, as is your ability to persevere amid the torrid of hatred spewed at you from every angle. No matter how hard they smash you down, you refuse to “stay throwed,” as one speaker from the convention so clearly noted.

Whereas most in your position would have given up long ago, you didn’t quit and I know that you will continue to keep fighting still—for our children, our mothers and grandmothers, minorities, the disabled. Everyone who dares to be “different” because it means being themselves. You are our hero, and please don’t ever forget that. As we prepare to watch the republicans grab total control of our beloved nation, we need you more than ever. Be our voice. Guide us through the next four years with your wisdom and courage. And always remember, we love you from the bottom of our hearts.

Per Julia’s request, her signature has been added to this letter.

With warm and heartfelt sincerity from us both,
Connie Kirchberg
Julia Simpson Uttutia






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I’ve only done it once–get an agent. She was a prominent agent, too. Now I am thinking about the process again, knowing that with each passing year it becomes harder. Why? Population growth. There are more of us competing with each other. Moreover, as writing teacher, I am aware of how many people think they can write. That shoves writing teachers and agents in the same uncomfortable manuscript-strewn corner, having to shuffle through scores of poorly written flights of fancy. Wingless wonders, if you will.  Birds too stuffed with dressing to get off the ground.

It occurs to me that the old adage about finding an agent who represents books I like a lot is true–if he or she likes books I like, chances are good he or she will like my book. Wishful thinking, you say?

Ah, but how do I get the talented and busy agent’s attention? Do a cartwheel? From what I read, even bribery has lost its charm. Agents are tired of little trinket gifts in the mail. Or big fat gifts.

I am looking for books to love, and when I fall for them, you will hear about it, in more places than just this blog. It will take digging. Like good friends, a loved book is not always where I would hope. However, when I do find one, I shall do a cartwheel in words.

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Being a writer is a lonely business. We spend our days at the computer, typing on a keyboard and watching words appear on screen. If we’re writing fiction, we may talk to our characters or imagine them talking to each other. If we’re writing non-fiction, we spend even more time on the computer doing research. Most of us are lucky to make a thousand dollars from a book once it’s published–never mind how many years have gone into the writing. Last week I wrote of the incredibly low pay involved in being a writing judge, a salary that works out to about five bucks an hour. Well, that’s a fortune compared to a thousand dollars for a book that took two or three years to write.

If we have survived the initial shock that comes with the ludicrous pay for published authors and are still writing, we are all bound to question our decision from time to time. And it’s on those occasions we really need our writing friends. I had what I’ll call a “mini doubt session” the other day. As Julia mentioned on her updated homepage, we are both in the process of having some of our books printed the old fashioned way. We intend to use these books mainly for promotional purposes, but that does nothing to change the fact that it’s going to cost money. Smack me if I’m wrong, but don’t most professionals make money with their chosen careers?

Alas, as Julia pointed out to me in another of her brilliantly worded e-mails, writing is, for the most part, its own reward. With her permission, I have opted to share her thoughtful letter here on our blog. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. And I also hope it helps you understand why Julia and I have opted to band together as writers and friends. The only people who understand what writers go through are other writers.  I sincerely hope each and every one of you reading this has found your own Julia.

Here is her letter:

Why are we writers? We are writers because we love writing. We love books, reading, literature, information, culture, people; our curiosity for life and the world, for history and psychology, sports and music, nature and animals is insatiable. Plus, we are suckers for a good story. We are nice people who wanted to fill our days with interests and to help fill the days of others with interest.

We succeeded. And we keep on at it. The Bernie Madoffs of the world either end up in jail or trying to impress people with all that they truly haven’t got. We know we will move past any bitterness because we see, every day, that we are living for what we always wanted to live for, even if we end up giving books away.

Nor are we alone. Van Gogh gave his paintings away, one of my favorite Orientalist painters, Jean Leon Gerome, gave his works away. Mozart, despite admiration from the aristocracy and widespread fame, was poor, without enough money to buy fuel to warm his house in dead of winter.

Let writers like the gal who wrote Eat, Pray and Love call herself a genius, for maybe she was for a few months–but she reached too high, because now she is trying to find something she has already lost by calling herself a genius. When we write to stroke our egos, we have already lost.

True creative spirits do not call themselves geniuses. They keep up the creativity and flow with it, taking care of their homes, their spouses, their kids and their animals while they do so, making ends meet.

You and I will sell some books, enough to keep going. Enough to keep writing.  And in the end, isn’t that all we want? Making money sometimes does nothing but afford one the opportunity of demonstrating how very fast a hole can be burned through one’s pocket.

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I suppose that would depend on your definition of failure. For writers, failure can mean many different things insofar as its relationship to our careers. Inability to finish a project due to time constraints and/or a lack of self discipline. Failure to secure an agent and/or publisher for a completed work. Rejected contest entries. A bad review. A cancelled contract. All of those things represent an inability to reach our goals writing-wise, but it’s our reaction to those setbacks that determine how others view us as people. Do we get up, brush the dirt from our clothes, and get back on the horse, or do we lie there on the ground, yelling for someone to call 911?

On Monday night, The Lakers eliminated the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semi-finals, four games to none. Afterward, a reporter asked Jerry Sloan, the Jazz coach, how he felt, having been eliminated three straight years by the same team. Sloan said that while he would have loved to beat the Lakers, losing wasn’t the end of the world because, in the end, basketball is just a game. A job. He knew his guys did the best they could. They just got beat by a better team.

So okay, writing isn’t a game to most of us. But on the other hand, our world won’t end if we never sell a book either. We do the best we can. We write when we find the time. We learn our craft and continually work at getting better. We keep trying. Some of us will make that big sale. Some of us won’t. When all is said and done, the people we care most about, our family and close friends, will judge us by the type of person we are, not by how many bestsellers we’ve penned.

My daughter Katie often tells me that I’m an inspiration. That she admires my drive. My tenaciousness. My refusal to quit chasing my dream. I must admit there are days where it isn’t easy to keep trudging along, but then, as Nixon once said, life isn’t meant to be easy. Maybe it really is the journey, and how we choose to travel it, that matters.

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This time of year always brings out the best in me. The NBA playoffs—aka the “real” season—is underway!  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy each and every regular game throughout the league’s 82-game, six month marathon season. I hope the powers that be never shorten it, even though a case could be made for doing that given the number of player injuries that have mounted up this year across the board. But no matter. This isn’t the time to whine about who’s hurting and who isn’t—as the shorthanded Utah Jazz proved last night. Deron Williams, you are amazing, baby! Any chance you might want to wear purple and gold in the near future? (I’m talking very near future.) L.A. is a great place to live and play hoops, just ask Lamar Odom.

But I digress. The point of this post was intended to focus on passion. You know, that heart-stopping buzz that takes over our senses when we’re involved in something we love. I have informed my blogging partner, Julia, who is new to my NBA nuttiness, to beware: I will not be myself for the next couple of months. I live and breathe basketball from now until mid-June when, hopefully, the Lakers will repeat as World Champs. My husband has other expectations. He’s never been able to quite let go of the Seattle Sonics and is thus a Thunder fan. I can’t blame him in some respects. The Thunder is the team of the future. Just not this year.  Kevin Durant’s time will come, but Kobe is the present Finals MVP and I know he will be again. Go Lakers!

Ah, again I digress. I suppose I should apologize to our readers who aren’t NBA fans, but I’m not going to because the whole point here is to embrace your passion. That passion can be anything. Sports, gardening, hiking, animals, museums, collecting stamps. It doesn’t matter. Just feed your soul with something you love and it will make you a better writer. I guarantee it. Now get off this blog and go write something inspiring!

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When I began watching Judge Judy in the late 1990s, I became an instant fan—not so much of Judge Judy herself as the incredibly lame people who appeared on the show. I still catch the program at least a couple of times a week, usually via DVR. Among my favorites are cases involving women who have been burned by deadbeat guys—guys they knew were losers from the start (often via prison records). No matter how irresponsible and lazy the man, the woman suing him had, at one point, been living with him, hoping and praying he could be changed. The only change that occurred, of course, was the woman’s money moving from her own pocket into that of her lame-brain boyfriend and out the door, never to be seen again.

I also enjoy the cases where parents show up to defend their children, making excuses as to why their 12-year-old, who broke a neighbor’s window while playing baseball, or ran into their parked car with a bike, wasn’t really to blame. Even worse are parents who enable their perfectly healthy adult children, allow them to live at home rent-free with no job or responsibilities. The latter are plaintiffs in various lawsuits: non-payment of child support; borrowed cars that were wrecked while driving without a license or insurance; payback of loans that they insist were meant to be gifts. The list goes on and on, and so does the show because, apparently, there is no end to the number of lame people willing to go on TV and show the world just exactly how lame they are.

Watching Judge Judy helps me as a writer in several ways. The most obvious is that I get ideas for characters. Most of these people are way too pathetic to serve as main characters (what reader could take them seriously?), but I have picked up some worthwhile material to use with my supporting casts. I also find the show great medicine for that affliction that hits us all from time to time: the writer’s doldrums. You know what I’m talking about: those depressing days when we sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because we have yet to land that six figure contract. When I fall into this trap, I abandon my computer for my TV, watch a few episodes of Judge Judy, and presto! I feel instantly better. Much better. It’s a relief to know there are people out there who have accomplished so little with their lives that they’re willing to throw away a lifelong family relationship to sue a sibling for fifty dollars. And in front of a television audience of millions, no less.

Thanks for the inspiration, Judge Sheindlin. And keep up the good work.

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I suppose that depends on your definition of hero. For me, it’s someone who inspires me to improve myself both as a writer and a person.  I’ve had many heroes over the years—some celebrities, but most just regular folks. Today I’m going to talk about the two celebrities who have most impacted my life: Elvis Presley and Kobe Bryant.

Yes, I know they couldn’t be more different. Nonetheless, each has inspired me in his own way. When I was a kid growing up in a tiny Wisconsin town with my grandmother, Elvis became my inspiration. Here was an incredibly determined boy from dirt poor Tupelo, Mississippi, who had overcome numerous hardships to become the most famous singer in the world! Elvis wasn’t afraid to chase his dreams by following his heart. “I don’t sound like nobody,” he told Marion Keisker that day he walked into Sun Records. And boy, was he right. Today, nearly 33 years after his death, thousands of people are still trying to look and sound like him.

My history with Kobe is different. In fact, I used to hate the guy. Thought he was a ball hog and full of himself. Ironically, all of that changed on January 22, 2006—the night I saw him drop 81 points on the Toronto Raptors. For those of you who don’t follow the NBA, that’s the second highest point total ever scored by one player (second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game on March 2, 1962). An impressive feat to be sure, yet it wasn’t so much the point total that inspired me as the effort behind it. The Lakers were far outplayed in the first half of that game, losing to an inferior team at home. Obviously Kobe wasn’t happy about that, so he took charge of the situation. And I mean took charge. Second half box score: Bryant 51 points, the Raptors (as a team!) 41.

Bottom line, Kobe Bryant hates to lose. Since becoming a fan, I’ve learned a few things about him as a person. He goes to the gym every day at 5:00 a.m. to work on his game. He plays hurt. (Broken finger? No problem. Back spasms? So what. The flu? Forget about it.) He plays hard. He plays to win. And he does all that because playing basketball was and is his dream. Kobe, like Elvis, has achieved great success by having followed his heart. Basketball experts will continue to debate who’s the best player in the NBA, but for me it’s a no-brainer because there’s no other player in the league today who puts 100% of himself out there every single time he takes the court. Just as Elvis gave his all every time he took the stage to sing for his fans.

Elvis and Kobe have taught me dreams can be achieved as long as I keep believing in myself. I might still be waiting for my ship to dock, but at least I have days when I can see its bow burning through the fog.

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