The Party’s (Almost) Over… But the Beat Will Go On


You know that very first moment of a cherished experience—a vacation, a trip, an adventure—when you gleefully acknowledge that you’ve finally arrived, you’re there, it’s starting, and you’ve got the whooooooole event in front of you just waiting to unfold?

That’s always been a favorite moment of mine; the beginning of something; something anticipated, looked forward to. The moment when you recognize the bounty of your circumstances, flush with the sheer breadth of time you’ve got in your grasp before the days and weeks tick by and you start looking at the calendar, counting down…

That’s how I felt January 3rd when I arrived in San Diego to start my four-month stint as a performer in the new musical, The Geeze and Me. I’d been sent off with enthusiastic support from my guys at home, arrived in SD to find my procured quarters a delightful abode, and my first official show meeting with B.J. Robinson, the musical director of the show, who could not have been a warmer, more joyful introduction to this anticipated chapter.

From there the months stretched ahead, long and leisurely; weeks to explore a new city, spend time with new friends (and old); day after day to revel in a creative reality that was both sharply reminiscent and refreshingly new in this new period of my life. As I traveled back and forth from San Diego to Los Angeles at the end of each week’s rehearsal schedule, I marveled at how quickly I assimilated into my two-city reality: happy to see my family for the time I had each week, excited to get back to the show Monday night. Even as the days rolled by, I remained blissfully aware that there were still so many of them ahead, months ahead, plenty of time for singing, dancing, scene work, collaboration, the creative process, laughing (so much laughing!)… and it was all so good. Even the not-so-good moments, which every show has at some point, were intriguing because they, too, were part of the process I was rediscovering (and were luckily outweighed by the so good!).

But clocks tick and calendars flip, and there’s that inevitable next moment when you acknowledge time: The moment when what’s ahead is less than what’s behind. You begin parceling out activities to make sure you get them all in; you make comments like, “let’s be sure to get together before I head back for good,” and the sheer exhilaration of the work, the performing, the audience interaction; the cast members you’ve grown to love, all become more precious for your realizing that “abundant time” has whittled down to weeks… then days… until the final countdown begins.

That’s where we are as I write this piece: counting down the last days of this journey, feeling the bittersweet tang of knowing it will soon be over: The Geeze and Me has its final three performances this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As far ahead as that denouement seemed when I arrived on January 3rd, it is now upon me and I’m… well, not to be too dramatic, but I’m bereft.

Not because I’m going home—I look forward to wrapping myself in the warmth of my family again, my house, my neighborhood; my view of the ocean each morning. Being home. But I’d be lying if I said I was ready to leap back into my life as it was, my life without the kind of creative collaboration the last four months have afforded me.

You see, it has been a very long time since I’ve had this intense of a creative experience over this long a period of time—since I did plays, made movies, worked in theater companies, sang in bands—and the resultant effect has served to waken the sleeping diva in me (and I mean diva in the purest sense of the word—the lead singer, the creative adventurer, the artiste—not the high-maintenance harridan demanding special treatment, I promise!). And that awakening leaves me now, at the end of this transformative experience, not only bereft, as mentioned, but a little befuddled.

What do I do with her when I get home, home to my “writer’s life,” a place of solitude and introspection, where I think and compose, spend quiet time with family, and enjoy the peacefulness of  walks by the ocean? My Awakened Diva will not necessarily embrace that solitary life as being… enough. It no longer feels enough. It feels like a wonderful addendum to what is enough, but the part of me that spent the last four months remembering that I sang, I acted, I expressed ideas out loud; I regularly engaged with exciting, creative, hilarious people who seemed to think I was all those things too—well, that part of me now has to service the Awakened Diva… and I don’t know how. Yet.

But I gotta figure it out. Because I now recognize, I’ve been reminded, that she is an intrinsic part of who I am, the soul of my creative being, the essence of the person who not only does what I was doing before the last four months, but who rediscovered the self that brought me, breathless and anticipatory, to my city by the sea as a young girl, driven by dreams designed by my Diva, dreams that, in recent years, got buried for reasons many artists encounter: artistic obsolescence, opportunity deficits, ageism; ground-shifting life events that demanded life-changing plans. I have no idea how to transcend all that in this new, awakened period of my life, but I’m inspired to find out.

Until then, I still have three more nights of this glorious show. Three more opportunities to sing, dance, laugh, act; feel the excitement of creating art, of touching audiences, of reveling in the talent and expression of the many wonderful people with whom I’m working. Yes, I am counting the remaining nights, days, hours left, but I’m not neglecting the joy factor of what’s still to experience. I’m going to pay attention to every remaining moment so that when it does finally end, I won’t have left out a one.

Then I’ll pack up my car, head north to Los Angeles, tuck back into the love and warmth of my family, and ponder all that’s happened. Where me and Awakened Diva go from here…. cuz the beat does go on, doesn’t it?

All I can say is: keep walking to your own and I’ll let you know where mine leads next!

If you’re in the San Diego area and would like to partake of whatever tickets are left for this week’s shows, April 27-29, go HERE for ticket information. 

First four photos by Ken Jacques; last photo from Tonight in San Diego taping. 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Most Effective Form of Protest Is VOTING

“Demonstration without good legislation ends in frustration. To get good legislation you need to be in majorities. You gotta win elections.” ― Rep. Keith Ellison

Every American remotely interested in what’s going on in this country likely conducts a ritual similar to this at the beginning of their day:

They rise, get ready as needed for their particular schedule, then sit down, stand up, turn on, or pick up their media preference to scan the headlines. Some read or watch further, some don’t, but for the majority of Americans, this ritual and those headlines — at least since the current occupier of the White House has been in occupation — are a rage-inducing, gut-wrenching, anxiety-producing litany of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news of stunning variety.

Since late-evening November 8th, 2016, we have witnessed the bulk of this country convulse through every negative emotion imaginable, with millions around the globe joining in angst as they watched, slacked-jawed, while the most powerful country in the free world handed the keys of the kingdom to the most inept, unqualified, and, as is proven daily, destructive and unethical person to ever grasp the title of “President of the United States.”

And this collective emotional turmoil is not conjecture; it’s fact: anxiety in America is up since Donald Trump became president:

“Post-election stress is real,” said Vaile Wright, director of research at the American Psychological Association. “People are really fearful about what’s going on in the country and are reporting concern about the political climate.”

On behalf of the national association, Harris Poll surveyed about 3,500 people last August in an annual survey about stress. The questionnaire asked for the first time about stress related to politics after hearing from therapists that many of their clients were anxious about the campaign. More than half said the U.S. presidential election was stressing them out.

Given what we’ve witnessed on social media, in coffee-house conversations, in the fracturing of families during dinner-time discussion, and the almost obsessive cultural fixation on “what the hell is going on with this Trump guy?” as one friend put it, the data from the American Psychological Association is not surprising, even if it is unprecedented:

“I’ve been in practice for 30 years,” said Esther Lerman Freeman, clinical psychologist at Oregon Health & Science University. “I’ve never seen people this upset about an election.”

But there was a bright spot in those early days: the Women’s March on January 21st.

It was, and remains, the best day many of us have had since that dreadful November night. An explosion of civic participation in unexpected and historic numbers, it became a communal gathering that not only made clear how tremendous the anti-Trump coalition was amongst liberal, progressive, and Democratic women (and men) throughout every state of the union (even blizzard-blown Alaska!), but around the world. The head-count was so large in some spots as to be incalculable, and observant folks were struck by the notion that there simply couldn’t be enough people who actually supported Trump to make his “win” irrefutable.

In fact, there wasn’t… because then came the Russians.

Or rather, as we recently heard from FBI Director, James Comey, the Russians came a long time ago. And I don’t mean the Cold War; I mean somewhere around July 2016, when the agency launched an investigation into possible (probable?) Trump/Russian collusion to interfere with #Election2016 and any chance of a Hillary Clinton win. Much more is to be revealed on this topic, but the critical mass of information already seems to support the suspicion that had this election been fair and square, Trump would be out hawking Slavic hotels while Hillary Clinton was busy running the country.

So, yes, LOTS of outrage to express, lots of anger and an unwillingness to acquiesce to the political status quo. People of conscience wear “pussy hats” and raise protest signs. We hashtag #Revolution, #Resistance, and #NotMyPresident every chance we get; stay vigilant on social media; write op-eds, call and email state representatives, sign petitions, organize town halls, and attend marches. WE MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD IN PROTEST.

And, yes: WE VOTE!

Right? We vote?

Turns out… not so much.

Like so much else in our recent electoral history that is surprising and self-sabotaging, it appears that far too many Americans STILL abdicate their right and responsibility to vote, one of their most effective and important civic tools. That is astonishing, particularly in this post-Trump era of outrage.

VOTE IN MIDTERMS. Elect a congressional majority willing to take on the White House, rather than behaving like quislings*.” ― Joy Reid (*quisling: a person who betrays his or her own country by aiding an invading enemy, often serving later in a puppet government; fifth columnist.)

On March 7, there was an election in Los Angeles for mayor, various judges, school board folks, and several important and impactful propositions. And yet, just a few short weeks after the streets of L.A. were packed with passionate, politically active people willing to get out on a Saturday morning to show solidarity with like-minded progressives, ONLY 11.45 PERCENT OF REGISTERED CITIZENS VOTED! Only 11.45 percent! Which means in a city of over 4 million people, just over 450,000 voted, which, depending on who you ask, is far less than showed up for the Women’s March on January 21st.

Why is that? Why are we willing to strap on a pink hat, grab a protest sign, and hit the streets to the tune of “We are women, hear us roar,” but not get out to the ballot box at some point during a 12-hour period to make our voices known in tangible, policy-and-local-government-altering ways?

Fact is, voter turnout in America has always been a conundrum. Horrible numbers. Shameful, even, in light of countries where citizens put life and limb at risk to vote. Maybe it’s the “privilege of democracy” that renders Americans civically lazy, detached from the urgency of voting. Maybe it’s the bane of imprinted American competitiveness that determines that only the most exciting, most combative elections bring out the numbers (FairVote). Certainly demographics have something to do with it: young people are notorious non-voters, which makes a clear case for stronger mentor influence and the designation of civics (let me say again) as a required subject in school curriculums.

But even though voter apathy is historically endemic, why, given the clear and vibrant political activism of that memorable January 21st day, didn’t those numbers translate into exponential attendance at the ballot box, the next logical step in the act of active activism? That question is where the political disconnect lies:

“It wasn’t a big election, like, for president or even any senators. I couldn’t figure out half the propositions. I got busy. The ballot was too confusing. I planned to vote but ran out of time. I was traveling that day. Smaller elections don’t matter that much. I have no idea who all those judges and school board and city council people were so I didn’t bother. The power mongers are going to decide everything anyway. Look at what happened with Trump; what’s the point?”

All the above were communicated to me in one way or another, and I get it: who are all those judges and other folks? And why are those propositions so damn confusing (and, really, did that many trees need to die to glut our mailboxes with contradicting mega-postcards)? And yes, not all of what’s there to be voted on by each resident affects that resident… but SO WHAT?

The civic equation, the societal formula, that desperately needs to be considered is this:

First, local laws affect the well-being of people by either attending to their needs, or by ignoring them to the point that they’re motivated to change those laws. That ability, that power — to change local laws via the electoral process — is designed to engage and inspire citizens to take responsibility for their own government. The thinking follows: if they get involved locally, they’re more likely to get involved nationally. Local voters beget national voters.

Secondly, local politicians become identified, known, as they move up the political ranks. They build loyalty while becoming effective spokespeople for their constituents. Those regional and local leaders — mayors, judges, city council and school board members, etc. — often go on to become state and national leaders; governors, congresspeople… even higher. Hence, getting to know those leaders locally puts voters ahead of the curve if/when those same people move into national positions. Voters are already invested; they already know something about that person; their voice and vote will be more educated because of that local history. Engaged local voters beget engaged national voters.

Whatever your interpretation of “all politics is local” (usually attributed to Tip O’Neil, etymologist, Barry Popik asserts that the phrase was coined by Washington AP bureau chief, Byron Price), I think we can all agree that local elections have tangible and pivotal influence in building and nurturing the foundation of all politics. So, again, why do so many people ignore them?

One popular post-mortem of election 2016 was the “exit interview” of Trump voters. Social scientists attempted to discern why they voted — sometimes against their own self-interests and often in the face of facts that should have sent them running to the hills — for a guy who couldn’t be more unlike them. The take-away, putting aside documented xenophobia, racism, and the rest, was that they felt their government leaders ignored them: “They don’t listen to us, those elites. Our needs aren’t considered. We’re invisible.” Whether or not that is quantifiably true is not the point; they believed it to be true and they believed Trump would be different. Which leads back to the chicken/egg equation: did local/state politicians drop the ball or did local citizens abdicate their own civic responsibility? Given the evidence, I’d say both the chicken and egg are guilty.

When it’s suggested that gerrymandering and voter suppression could subvert the Democrats’ ability to make gains in the 2018 midterms, shaking voters out of their entrenched apathy becomes all the more urgent. We need to engage citizens early in their political life (let me say this again: civics must become a high school requirement), getting voters of every age inspired, educated, and out to the polls. The default position should be that every election is a “big one.” Because, ultimately, that is true.

Lastly — and perhaps prosaically — there is simply no excuse not to vote; not any more; not these days. Regardless of gerrymandering, insufficient polling stations, long lines, bad weather, work conflicts, babysitting snafus, car problems, travel schedules, bad knees, simply not having enough time to get to a polling place, there’s this: 37 states allow early voting, all states will mail absentee ballots to those requesting them, and three states provide mail-in ballots for all elections. Everyone can figure out a way to vote.

The Midterm Elections of 2018 are the next major elections; many important state and city elections are unfolding as we speak, some of which may have powerful impact on turning the tide against the Trump machine. VOTE. Don’t abdicate. Don’t dismiss. Don’t listen to those who tell you it doesn’t matter. Grab a rain coat, pull on your pink hat, take your protest sign, jog from work, register for mail-in ballots; whatever it takes: VOTE. That, more than any other form of resistance and protest, has the power to change the world. If #Election2016 taught us anything, it taught us that.

“Holding America” photo by Samuel Schneider @ Unsplash

To find out what your specific state provides in terms of early voting and mail-in ballots, check HERE.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Geeze and Me: Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number…or 20!

The Geeze & Me” is a funny, irreverent, and poignant original musical. This timely show features a comedic troupe of eccentric players who team up to wrangle aspects of aging from an expert. An eclectic blend of songs ranging from pop to blues to corner street doo-wop, accompanied by innovative choreography. The perils and benefits of growing older are reflected in the concerns of this diverse group of people.

Think “Hair,” after it’s gone.

YEP. That’s me… one of those “eccentric players.” Back on the boards again after a decade or so off; singing, acting, dancing like the theater maven I used to be, inspiring the question: “Is it like getting back on the bike?”

It is. And isn’t. It’s better than that. It’s like getting back on the bike and discovering the bike became more precious in the interim.

I was always a dramatic child. From the moment my mouth opened and started expressing itself, my mother called me “Sarah Bernhardt,” her passive-aggressive way of telling me I was pushing the limits of emotive enthusiasm.

But when you’re one of eleven children, and every one of those is loud and unfettered, you have no choice but to be assertive getting your points across. And I was assertive, whether doing basement plays, church folk songs, college theater majoring, or kicking ass as a rock & roller.

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There’s just something about singing and acting that’s always been exhilarating to me. I know you other performers know exactly what I mean. That sense of channeling thought and feeling through your limbs and legs and vocal cords in ways that are physical and purging and yet can still convey fragility or love or anger. I remember moments of feeling so high (and with no enhancements involved) just standing in front of band or orchestra, singing my lungs out with soul-cleansing abandon. It’s a stunningly visceral experience and when I stopped doing it a while back, for reasons to do with lack of opportunity or heightened selectivity, it felt as if I had to adjust my breathing just to get enough air. Strange how that works.

Writing has been a lifetime Muse as well, as many of you are aware… a joyful one, a deeply satisfying one, but one of quieter comportment. More solitary and less collaborative. And I missed that collaboration, that madness particular to creating within a group. So as I’ve joyfully written, I’ve kept an eye out for opportunities. And one finally came my way… in the form of The Geeze and Me.

My pal, Nancy Locke Capers, my very first girlfriend made when I moved to Los Angeles as a toddler (okay… a young-twenty), has been living in La Jolla (near San Diego) for decades now, and, unbeknownst to me, was years into creating a musical with her very musical husband, Hedges Capers. Hedges, whose pedigree as a singer/songwriter is long and impressive (you can catch up with both their careers by clicking HERE and HERE), had an astonishing repertoire of songs—witty, clever, soulful, kickass, heartfelt songs—that literally oozed with narrative, and with those bones, he and Nancy created a witty, clever, soulful, kickass, heartfelt show analyzing, defining, debunking, and celebrating the “vicissitudes of aging.” They titled it, The Geeze and Me.

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We were sitting together at a friend’s wedding when I first heard about the show. Over, I believe, arugula salad with rosemary croutons, they asked if I’d be interested in getting involved. Interested? I felt old muscles perk up, dusty lights blink on; vocal cords vibrate with hopeful anticipation. Involved? OF COURSE! But it was reading the script, and, particularly, hearing Hedge’s songs, 20+ songs, that sealed the deal. The singer in me was tantalized, the storyteller impressed; the emoter wanted nothing more than to get out on whatever stage these two put together to sing those songs. I was in.

Now, Nancy and I have done many a production together, from collaborating on a feature screenplay (which was quite good, mind you), to working within the theater company at The Alliance Repertory in Burbank, to the premiere of an odd and hilarious play called Buried Together at Theater at the Improv in Hollywood (which Nancy directed). So our history as collaborators is long and storied. I trust her sensibilities, both artistically and personally, and know how great she is to work with. I also knew her years as a therapist would imbue her writing and directorial vision with deep understanding and wisdom. In fact, I love what she personally had to say on that topic:

As a writer, I was hoping to bring energy to the musical landscape with something fresh and new: a story with a post-modern structure, exploring the territory of intimate relationships as we age, personal loss, and the crossroads of adaptation and holding on. We plumb the ground of friendship, illness, sexuality, loneliness, personal dreams and anxieties. Oh…and make it funny!

I’ve tried to balance reality with a surreal quality of personal transformation, which I’ve witnessed during my many years as a psychotherapist. Working with a dream cast and the many collaborators who bring abundant creativity to the table is a thrill.

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As for Hedges… well, he’s all heart and soul: on his sleeve, in his words, woven throughout his music. A consummate artist, he’s put everything he’s got into this production, from creating the projections, to supervising set builds, to collaborating on the script, to designing the production, but, damn… it’s those songs! He seems to have a well of inspiration unlimited both in depth and breadth, the show’s repertoire evidence of that astonishing creative spectrum. Being able to perform songs that are everything from absurd, to funny, to provocative, to rip-your-heart-out tender is a gift for any performer. So I feel gifted to be there, to be working with them, with the incredible staff they’ve assembled, and certainly the amazing cast of actors and singers who impress and delight me daily.

Of course, I’d love for all of you to find a way to San Diego during the run: March 31st—April 29th. You can check the website for details, get connected to the show’s Facebook or Twitter pages for updates, and certainly you can contact me. Believe it or not, there are several nights that are already sold out, so if you’re planning to get there (and San Diego is a great place for a weekend field trip!):

Click HERE for available dates and ticket information.

So there you go… that’s my latest. Getting on with the act of creating during this strange and trying time in our country, and so grateful for the opportunity. Thanks for catching up, rehearsal’s in an hour; gotta go warm up the cords (damn, this is louder than writing books! 🙂 )

FOR Media and Press:

SUSAN J. FARESE
SJF Communications 408-398-5940
sjfcommunications@gmail.com
www.sjfcommunications.com

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

What He Said: John Scalzi Has a Plan for How To Stay Creative in the Age of Trump

photo-by-nik-macmillan

It’s rare that I repost a piece from the Los Angeles Times, but the general thesis of this one has been rolling around my own head for weeks, and it seems John Scalzi beat me to it! So rather than wrangle my own version–and since he covered it so well–I’m linking his piece here. Take it to heart… it’s important that creative folks stay creative, even when it seems like the entire world has turned upside down around them!


John Scalzi’s 10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump

John Scalzi

IT’S NOT A GREAT SECRET that Donald Trump and his incoming administration are not hugely beloved by America’s creative class — the difficulty Trump is having in finding performers for his inauguration is only the most obvious manifestation of this. What’s probably less known is that Trump election put a number of creative people into mental tailspin. Not only for the fact of his election, but for what his policies mean for creatives: The possible disappearance of the Affordable Care Act, through which many creative people were able to secure health insurance, is just the tip of the iceberg for many.

People who don’t make their living through creative endeavors often suppose turbulent times make for great art, but the truth is that for many artists, being worried or anxious or depressed steals away the ability to create. The new reality of Trump’s America means a lot of creatives have to readjust — find a new balance to get back to creating.

How to do that, if you are creative person knocked for a loop by the election? Here are some of the things I’ve done, and that other writers and creatives are telling me they are doing.

[Continue reading at the Los Angeles Times….]

Photo by Nik MacMillan

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

When You’re Trying To Do Christmas and Politics Get In the Way

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I remember the good old days when I could find all sorts of fun, quirky things to write about at this time of year: cheerful vignettes about childhood holiday memories, charming seasonal facts long forgotten, the ten worst Christmas traditions ever; you know… meaningful stuff like that.

The holiday season just seems to lend itself to warmth and whimsy, the exploration of themes related to love and gratitude, our favorite recipes and the funniest Santa Claus pictures. Unless one is truly a curmudgeon, it’s almost impossible to not have least one happy memory attached to this time of year. I was—and am—no exception.

In fact, I love Christmas. I’m one of those. It makes me happy. I feel no compunction to spend money I don’t have, plans trips I don’t wish to take, or attend events I’d rather avoid. I’m very protective that way. It’s all about designing a season in which the only obligation is to create happiness for those within the circle. In fact, my husband and I began our marriage by making our first Christmas a thing of joy, and those handpicked ornaments and table decorations, cookie traditions and family gatherings, favorite meals and notable activities, sustain to this day, as precious to us as anything we hold dear.

scary-election_mikeyBut still, I’ve been more serious lately. Life got more serious. I blame the election. The damn, interminable election that sucked the air out of our nation starting a little over a year ago and ratcheting up every day since. It’s been a war of sorts, one that’s left us battered, bothered and bewildered. As one friend put it, “I hate that I’m actually in fear for our future. I’ve been disappointed in election results before, but I’ve never felt terrified about where this person might take us, or how and if we’ll survive.”

I’m not one who lives in fear, but I feel her pain. I share the concern. Despite previous political conflicts, rancorous partisanship, and caustic disparities amongst the parties, I, too, have never felt quite the level of darkness and toxicity that permeates this particular election… and this particular person. That the man entering office is doing so despite his opponent winning almost 3 MILLION MORE VOTES, and despite the fact that the wisest, more experienced, most admirable and honorable men and women in the country/world believe he’s an unmitigated disaster, means little at this point. We are here. Where we are. And at this moment there’s no changing that (later moments…we’ll see).

Dealing with the daily litany of horrible, idiotic, hateful, head-shaking, corrupt, indecent, and just plain stupid things the next presi— (I can’t say it… I won’t… #NotMyPresident… ever), occupant of the White House says or does has been exhausting and unnerving (that’s a tepid word… how about TERRIFYING?!). I have no idea where it’s all going either, how long the trainwreck will be allowed to smolder before someone gets it to the scrap yard, or if we’ll be teaching our children how to desk-dive in “nuclear drills” before the year is over. But I won’t live in fear. I prefer the sentiment of this section of the poem, Protest, that Dan Rather shared:

‘Protest,’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1914

To sin by silence when we should protest
makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law.
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare must speak and speak again,
To right the wrongs of many.

I will live by that. I will continue to raise my voice, as Ella suggests, to “speak and speak again,” however loud and long is required of me. I promise you that.

But still… there’s Christmas.

And Christmas is important. We human beings need the rituals and traditions of our holidays, those times when we can collectively acknowledge and experience celebration and joy. Without them we might end up spending all our time wailing on social media, and that’s not a good thing!

But to those for whom loss or grief keeps them from finding the joy… those whose loneliness and isolation occludes their ability to embrace the happier aspects of seasonal celebration, I say this: I understand. I do. I’ve been there. I know how tough it can be, when you’re in those particular places, to carry on about “jolly St. Nick” and the proper temp for Christmas roast. My beloved grandmother died the morning of Christmas 1979. I had some of the loneliest days of my life over Christmas of 1988. I went into the season of 1989 having just lost a job. I got dumped once right before Christmas. My father died in early December of 1999. I know how those seminal events, those states of being, can impact one’s ability to celebrate and be happy, Christmas or no Christmas.

I hope, though, that through friends, through social media, through whatever connections you can make, can find and feel in your world, that you’re able to glean at least a moment or two of warmth and holiday spirit this season… I wish that for you.

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As for me this year: I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and doing well, my work is moving along; I’ve got a new theatrical adventure to begin this coming year (more on that soon); the house looks magical, the gifts are wrapped, the cookies are baking, every gathering has met expectations, so we’re doing it up right. But yes… at least a few times a day, as I do my work online, I check social media and various news sources to see what the hellfire is going on, and dammit if I don’t have to tweet or post or write or share or comment or yell about one damn thing or another because that little orange mother—BUT WAIT!!

It’s Christmas… I’m mellow and jolly, wrapped in reds and greens, nutmeg and cinnamon wafting through the air; Music Choice is set to “Sounds of the Season” and it’s so, so, so lovely… so NO! Donald Trump does not get my holiday! He may have shattered my belief in democracy, lowered my estimation of human decency, made me question how deep my coffer of disdain can go, and raised my level of revulsion beyond good health, but he is NOT going to ruin my damn Christmas!

So, despite politics, I will revel madly, enjoy friends and family to the utmost, occasionally hug my big Santa statue by the doorway, all with hopes that you can do some version of the same (the big Santa is pretty exclusive but, I tell ya, he’s quite something!). And please know that—if you’re reading this— you’re likely one of my circle, those chosen few with whom I vent, debate, inspire, exchange ideas, share important articles, post unimportant but utterly appreciated videos of pandas playing with snowmen, or just, in general, grant outlets and venues and canvasses upon whicchrismas-carh to commiserate. Our mutual and connected attempts to makes sense of this crazy world have literally kept me from feeling alone and insane during this “Annus horribilis,” so THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

And Merry Christmas, dear friends. Let’s make 2017 a year that “trumps” the year we’ve just had… in all the good ways in which that word can be applied. Let’s reflect on the poem Dan Rather shared and make sure we are not those who “sin by silence.” Let’s be loud, and make COURAGE the word most spoken this coming year.

Until then, have a Christmas cookie… mmm, so good! ❤

Santa photo by Caleb Wood at Unsplash
Scary Election by Mike (Mikey) @ Unsplash
Christmas Car photo @ Pinterest

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Guest Post: The Review Of My 2016 Book Trends Review, Reviewed

Tara Sparling is a writer/blogger who never fails to make me laugh. Maybe it’s her Irish cleverness, maybe it’s her absurd take on the world, particularly the book world, or maybe it’s just that she’s damn funny. Enjoy!

Tara Sparling writes

It’s the time of the year where we look back on my predictions for 2016, which I cunningly disguised back in Januaryas a futuristic review of what had already happened.

Because, you see, this was supposed to be funny. For the past few years each January, in a shameless gimmick, I have been doing my review of the year past before it’s happened. And in general, it was a right old wheeze. Haha, said the lovely blog readers, at what amounted to a satirical news story. It’s funny because it is quite possible that all these things might happen, they said, such as publishers creating a new craze for cookery books made out of macramé, or the book world consumed with the story of the $3 million publishing deal for Johnny Depp’s dogs.

But then the rest of 2016 happened.

The Review Of My 2016 Book Trends Review, Reviewed

I don’t wish to get maudlin on this blog…

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Let’s Discuss the Politics of ‘Closed’ Facebook Groups

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I get it. I get why people want to create “closed groups” on Facebook. “Secret groups.” It’s not hard to understand.

With a closed group, an administrator can control who’s let in and who’s kept out; how it’s done and what is shared. They can keep out the caustically antipathetic and avert the toxicity of trolls. All of which is desirable.

As someone who posts on sites like The Huffington Post, with one of the highest readership ratings of any media site in the world, I have heard — oh, have I heard! — from an array, a confluence, a literal horde of trolls over my writing career, and I mean to tell you, their hateful, hissing commentary can be soul killing. And trolling appears to be an equal-opportunity affliction, as I’ve been bombarded by everyone from gun nuts and political zealots, to angry moms and independent writers.

So, yes, removing that seething demographic’s inexhaustible urge to hijack meaningful conversation is a good thing. Though I do know some pugilistic, well-meaning writers who seem energized by virtually jousting with inarticulate, hateful poop-throwers, I’m not one of them… and my experience tells me most people aren’t. Hence, “closed groups,” with their ability to block trollism, have sprouted en masse, popular amongst those who want a safe space to engage with like-minded people to exchange ideas, information, articles, calls-to-action, etc.

But given that increase, inspired, no doubt, by the shit-storm we’ve just experienced in Election 2016, I do think it would be wise to rethink a few things, not only on the general protocol of any group, closed or otherwise, but the impact of particularly closed groups on public perception. I think these points bear some thought, especially considering what was just lost and what we are now facing.

1. Do NOT put someone in any group, closed or otherwise, without asking first. 

This is a big one, and though I’d have assumed it didn’t need to be said, it does. I have now been “put,” sometimes repeatedly, into various groups without my knowledge or permission, discovering said membership only after getting notification that I was in said group. BAD FORM.

When you do that to someone, regardless of your good intentions, you are not only being presumptuous, you’re now giving that person a task they didn’t ask for: if they choose not to be in said group, they now have to take the time to track it down and remove themselves. Which may seem minor, but it’s annoying and can potentially lead to someone else being miffed that that person doesn’t want to be in said group. Bottom line: it’s messy, it’s presumptuous, and it’s bad manners.

If you’ve discovered or are starting a group you think someone else might be interested in, ASK THEM FIRST. Very simple. Send them an invitation; let them be the one to decide if they want to join. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Realize that many people simply don’t want to be in groups; some are already in as many as they choose to be in; some may not want to participate in that group, or, if it’s a closed group, they may have different philosophies about those in general.

2. Allow members to participate as they see fit: 

I have now been in a few groups where administrators treat members almost like errant students: they’re obligated to engage in certain ways, with measurable degrees of visibility and involvement; there are to-do lists and even “homework.”

Typically I hop out of any group that turns voluntary participation into the dirge of academic obligation, because I don’t choose to, or have time to, participate in that way. We’re all adults; we do not need to be scolded, managed, or browbeaten into engaging in specific, mandated fashion. Again, it’s bad form, and it turns the positive experience of that group into something, well… less positive.

Don’t judge what members are getting out of it. If they’re there, they must be getting something. Trust your members. Which means, don’t “guilt” people into signing petitions, donating money, taking actions, sharing stories, “liking: other people’s posts, leaving reviews, etc. Coercion, however gentle, is counter-productive. We all learn, grow, change, and are inspired in individual ways. If you invite people into a group, unless they’re trolling — at which point, yes, they’re uninvited — allow them to participate as they choose. You never know what may be gained from their quiet engagement.

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3. As for “closed/secret” groups, are they really the best way to make evolutionary, cultural change?  

I know I’m likely to get some heat for this one, but hear me out:

There are many valid reasons for closed groups: groups that allow abuse survivors to communicate privately; battered women, LGBT groups; any group where privacy is truly survival and mandatory.

But political groups? Really?

One of the biggest criticisms of Hillary Clinton over the entire election cycle, including the primary, was that people weren’t enthusiastic about her; they weren’t as “excited, thrilled, inspired,” as, say, Bernie supporters… and later, as Trump supporters. You remember that, don’t you? And it was strange, that perception, because, in fact, millions of men and women were deeply enthusiastic about her. And where were they, many of them? In “secret” groups, every day touting and cheering their support amongst each other. It was a literal spree of support in… secret groups. Out in the public forum? Not so much.

Back in March I wrote a piece titled, I Will If You Will: Why Clinton Supporters Need to Speak up More on Social Media, based on the fact that so many of them were oddly silent, seemingly cowed from public discourse on media, social or otherwise. And while the piece inspired a fair amount of dialogue, I continued to see more and more “closed/secret” Clinton groups pop up every day, with, still, less open discussion in public forums.

And I understand. Based on feedback I got after the article, it seems countless people, mainly women, were reticent to share their public support for Clinton because of backlash they were bound to receive: in work situations where people might take umbrage; within families where members would be incensed; amongst social media circles where trolls were all too active. Fear, and an unwillingness to set themselves up for that kind of negative response, led, then, to their participation in those many “secret/closed” Clinton support groups.

Certainly those groups provided upliftment and support to the members involved, and that was good. And maybe the group’s mission was just that, and didn’t include any intent or mission to change public perception of Clinton’s enthusiasm quotient, or build greater coalition for her campaign out in the public sphere. Clearly no group was obligated to meet that demand, but I have to wonder: did all the secrecy have an impact, a negative contribution, to the endless mantra that Clinton just didn’t have the same level of support as either Bernie or Trump?

I have no quantifiable statistics, but my gut says yes. The greater lack of public outspokenness amongst her many supporters did her no favors, and at the end of the day, the “silent majority” has never been more painfully evident than in an election where the more popular, more qualified candidate lost in the din of support for her opposition, whose supporters were always out, loud, and proud without any commensurate caution or hesitation.

Additionally, is it possible that all this echo chambering did/does little to help bridge gaps between different, even opposing groups? If we never hear from or engage with those on other sides, isn’t it possible we’re never going to find reasonable coalition again in this country? I’m not talking trolls — they get zero engagement from me and shouldn’t from anyone else. I’m talking about honest, thoughtful people who may have conflicting views as well as the ability to communicate sanely and without invectives and vitriol. They surely exist… don’t we want to engage with them… or at least try?

We liberals got this election so damn wrong on so many levels, I think it behooves us at this point to climb out of the bubble. I realize those with opposing or even just conflicting perspectives have to have the same willingness to put down pitchforks to meet us on the field (will they? won’t they?), but we gotta start somewhere. Someone needs to get out on the dance floor. Not everyone on the other side is a KKK member, a flaming white supremacist, a hate-mongering xenophobe, or a virulent alt-right bigot. Some are just less informed, have been more hurt by problems that exist in this country; have been misled by misinformation, or whose narrow concerns blinded them to the worst of the other side. They make up that BIG red blob in the middle and southern edges of our country. And many of them are on Facebook.

If there’s anything we’ve learned this go-around, it’s that we have to start paying less attention to our own biased media and flawed online polls (oh, how flawed they were!), and more to the people across the street. On the corner. In our hometowns. In those flyover states. In other Facebook groups.

Yes, closed group aficionados, I’m aware that “some of us need, want, demand a safe place to vent, share, speak, write, cry, scream, inspire, laugh, etc., without any pushback or even feedback from those who don’t share our worldview.” OK, but considering the paragraphs above, how about this?

Create the group. Leave it open; not “secret.” Create and post the mission statement. Define parameters: rules against trolling and ad hominem attacks, suggestions for participation, clear awareness of what kind of communication will get someone removed from the group, etc. Monitor conversations. Monitor comments. Monitor threads. Stay vigilant to bona fide trolls; block and delete without apology. And build a group, a circle, a conversation that is open, welcoming, and, hopefully, ultimately, illuminating to anyone open to illumination.

It’s how I’ve built and curated my own social media and, yes, it takes vigilance, but it works. It will be more work for administrators, it will take more vigilance from members to keep administrators aware of anyone breaking the trolling rules, but it might go a long way toward creating both a safe space and a public forum that allows the positive energy, thoughtful dialogue, and inspiring debates to more usefully and productively enter into and impact the pubic sphere.

We need that. If anything taught us that, it was Election 2016.

Table & chairs photograph by Jonny Clow @ Unsplash
Studying man photograph by Bethany Legg @ Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH – No, Not the Election, the BOOK – Heads Into a Celebratory Week of Dollar Days

atsp_music-by-brenda-perlin

Being an independent author is like being a single parent.

You’ve birthed this glorious entity, you love and cherish it with all your heart; you do everything in your power to escort it safely through the twists and turns of life, and it’s pretty much all on you to keep it breathing.

And like an exhausted parent, I spent 2016 not promoting either of my two novels for a number of reasons:

1.) (and I’m just being honest here): I was sick of doing it. Convinced I’d overstayed my welcome in chattering about them; certain that anyone I could actually reach had already been amply alerted, and twitchy at having to conjure up new and clever ways to talk about them without coming off like an overweening “helicopter parent,” I stepped back.

2.) I found most promotional options to be either surprisingly ineffective or beyond my budget; and

3.) My many and not-inexpensive efforts in previous years had netted less than the desired results.

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So, I took a sabbatical from promoting and spent my time doing lots of other things: selling a house, corporate writing, attempting to get caught up on my photography site, joining the cast of a new musical, driving myself mad with this election (don’t get me started!), and primarily writing my third novel (more on that later!).

But THIS WEEK all that changes… I’m bringing out the big promotional guns!

The very coveted book site, BookBub, has selected my first novel, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, to include in a feature this week. And since this will be my one and only book promotional effort of the year, I figured I’d fill the slots before and after with a few of the other higher profile book promotional sites as well.

The perk for you, dear reader? During this week of promotions, and in the spirit of getting AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH properly introduced to new readers and reintroduced to those of you who might appreciate a reminder (Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, holiday vacation reading), you’ll be able to pick up a Kindle copy of the book during this week for only 99¢!

Here’s the schedule of sites that will be featuring After The Sucker Punch at this special promotional price:

Monday, 11/14: ReadCheaply 

Monday, 11/14: ManyBooks (with “Feature Author of the Day interview)

Wednesday, 11/16: EreaderNews

Thursday, 11/17: BookBub

Friday, 11/18: Awesome Gang

The promotional price at Amazon will be in effect from Monday, 11/13 (12 am) — Friday 11/18 (12 pm)

Here’s the blurb:

“With bare-bone honesty and fiery dialogue, Wilke explores the loaded relationship between parents and their adult-children, examining the brave and lonely journey of self-discovery, reinvention, and healing…raw and brave—a great read.”—Tracy Trivas, author of The Wish Stealers (Simon & Schuster)

They buried her father at noon, at five she found his journals, and in the time it took to read one-and-a-half pages her world turned upside AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_coverdown… he thought she was a failure.

Every child, no matter what age, wants to know their father loves them, and Tessa Curzio – thirty-six, emerging writer, ex-rocker, lapsed Catholic, defected Scientologist, and fourth in a family of eight complicated people – is no exception. But just when she thought her twitchy life was finally coming together – solid relationship, creative job; a view of the ocean – the one-two punch of her father’s death and posthumous indictment proves an existential knockout.

She tries to “just let it go,” as her sister suggests, but life viewed through the filter of his damning words is suddenly skewed, shaking the foundation of everything from her solid relationship and winning job to the truth of her family, even her sense of self. From there, friendships strain, bad behavior ensues, new men entreat, and family drama spikes, all leading to her little-known aunt, a nun and counselor, who lovingly strong-arms Tessa onto a journey of discovery and reinvention. It’s a trip that’s not always pretty – or particularly wise – but somewhere in all the twists and turns, unexpected truths are found.

Author and longtime Huffington Post contributor, Lorraine Devon Wilke, takes an irreverent look at father/daughter relationships through the unique prism of Tessa’s saga and its exploration of family, faith, cults, creativity, new love and old, and the struggle to define oneself against the inexplicable perceptions of a deceased parent. Told with both sass and sensibility, it’s a story wrapped in contemporary culture but with a very classic heart.

“A keenly executed character study. The novel is tightly structured and holds its complex elements with a sure and skillful grip. The dialogue pops…a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read.”—Junior Burke, author of Something Gorgeous (farfalla press/McMillan & Parrish)

Thank you for your time, please enjoy the read, and let’s keep sharing creativity in these strange and challenging times!

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All photo-art by Brenda Perlin

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Some Feisty Thoughts From a Fellow Writer On the Debacle of Our American Presidency

Tuesday in America was a clusterf**k of massive proportions for a lot of free-thinking, open-minded, progressively oriented, big-tent, humanity loving people. As we stumble through the aftermath, detritus and debris all around, writers across the globe are making their points known. This particularly feisty point reflects my own feelings. If you have concerns about “bad words,” look away.

You Take The Fucking High Road and Shove It…

A Surly Girl's Guide to Life

Yesterday gave me a faint hint of what it must be like to have a mood disorder. I started off the day buoyed by a Facebook feed full of inspirational Pantsuit Nation posts and moving video feeds from Susan B. Anthony’s graveside. This was going to be the day I’ve been waiting my whole voting life for – a woman was going to be President. In a nod to the suffragettes I voted wearing a petticoat instead of a pantsuit like so many other women.

While I was nervous, because really, who wasn’t? I thought my bourbon fueled evening was going to end in glorious drunken celebration. Instead, after a fuckton of liquor I went to bed before it was over.  I couldn’t watch the guys on CNN fuck with the maps any more trying to make sense of why all their predictions were as wrong as the clusterfuck…

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The Cleansing Power of Creativity… Yours

— photo by Gaelle Marcel

Maybe it’s the God-syndrome; the idea that having the power to create is what life is all about, what ‘godliness’ is all about… or at least closer to that vaunted status than ‘cleanliness,’ for God’s sake, which is what we’ve been told all these years!

The power to create comes in countless varieties, allowing humans of every predilection to choose their path to the heavens. But in a culture more readily fixated on watching, judging, commenting, hang-wringing, ranting and railing, it’s easy to get preoccupied by the passivity of being an observer, an analyst, while minimizing the activity of shifting the zeitgeist with the smallest touch of our energy and creativity. We huddle over Facebook or Twitter, availing ourselves of the latest “whatever,” feeling our outrage stoked, our righteousness riled; we share, and comment, and converge, and there is some value, some sense of being part of the roiling evolvement of our world by this engagement, and certainly there is.

But we have to question: is it sustaining value? Does it help us in our lives? Does it help others? Does it change outcomes? Does it positively impact those we know, we touch; the world around us?

I’m not convinced. It’s fun, surely (sometimes); it’s distracting and entertaining. We do come across funny animal videos (perhaps the BEST reason to be on social media! 🙂 ). There are great, inspirational stories about great inspirational people; those have merit. Activism may be stirred, involvement encouraged, but how often does that get beyond observational to become actual?

I bet if studies were done (which they probably have been but I’m too lazy to go look), we’d discover that people spend a significant chunk of their “free time” on social media, immersed in arguing/commiserating about politics, crime, gossip, outrage and tragedy, less on creativity, inspiration, and upliftment, and certainly less on actively pursuing those higher-toned activities.

In some ways we can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. It’s driving past the car crash, looking at the dead body; gorging in the latest tragedy. We observe and remark and ponder, but odds are good all of that leaves us feeling more burdened than inspired to act.

So as thinking people, we have to be aware of that equation, cautious about our own indulgences, our own consumption, to adjust. I often take myself off media, social and otherwise, enforce a sabbatical of sorts, out of sheer need for a mental/emotional palate cleanse. I get deeply wearied (I’m not sure there’s a word strong enough to express how wearied) of the relentless, redundant, scab-picking coverage of this presidential election. I get battered by the glut of tragedy presented by the globalization of our news media. I fight not to become inured to the injustices, the prejudices, the caustic bigotries and vile behaviors that drench our online discourse, so I can continue to be a voice of reason and protest.

And I create. I shut it all off and create. And that’s when I discover the ‘godliness’ we each have the power to access.

As some of you know, I went to an Adele concert recently. It had been a long time since I’d been to a show as big, as overwhelming, and as I watched this warm, charming, supremely talented singer/songwriter work her magic on the thousands of people in the room with me, I thought to myself: ‘what must it feel like to have your path so firmly etched that you know your job, your gift, your contribution to the world is bringing joy, emotion, inspiration, reflection, MUSIC to this many people?’ I envied Adele’s singular purpose and her ability to carve a life where creativity was both her art and her occupation.

Then later that week I went down to San Diego to work on songs for an original musical in which I’m involved (The Geeze & Me), and despite having my computer along, I made a point of staying off social media, detaching for a minute from the noise and madness. As I worked with the show’s creator, Hedges Capers, banging out melodies and recording tracks, or discussed the script and characters with his wife and co-creator, Nancy Capers, I found myself wrapped in the excitement and exhilaration of creativity, pure and simple. It brightened my day and lifted my spirits, making my awareness of, and engagement in, the darker corners of life more manageable, less burdensome, more in balance.

Meanwhile, and during all the above, I’ve been knee-deep in accomplishing the first (very rough) draft of my third novel, a topical piece dramatic enough to be a departure from my first two. It’s been a bitch in that, and taken some stern focus and concentration, but the process of writing is the essence of what I’m talking about: there’s an immersion, a cloister-like cocoon that’s achieved, one in which I’m taken as an observer, a chronicler, into the world I’m creating, which is insanely surrealistic and magical. And while in my created world, following the activities of my imagined characters, the world in which I actually live hovers nearby, still in view, still accessible, but muted for that moment.

It’s within that mystical cocoon where the simple act of creating becomes the ritual: tapping the ‘godliness’ we each possess, where intention and imagination result in creation.

That ability is life-changing, empowering. It allows us to detach from self, from noise, from ego; from the distractions and chaos of culture, to, instead, create. A song. A book. A code. A building. A dress. A cake. A painting. An invention. A game. A restaurant. A water system. A business. A plan. A purpose. A curriculum. A change.

A better world.

Crayon photo by Gaelle Marcel @ Unsplash.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.