PODCAST: A Conversation About Fiction, Culture & The Alchemy of Noise w/ The Three Tomatoes

It’s not every day you’re invited to converse with The Three Tomatoes, but I was, and I did, and it was quite the invigorating exchange with their always effervescent podcast hostess, Debbie Zipp.

To give you a bit of background on the group: the brainchild of founder/publisher, Cheryl Benton, and co-founding partner, Roni Jenkins, The Three Tomatoes describes itself as a “digital lifestyle magazine for women who aren’t kids,” with a mission to curate and provide an entertaining, informative, bicoastal lifestyle guide for “smart, savvy women who want to live their lives fully at every age and every stage.” Within that framework, they swing from fashion, travel, and cooking, to frank discussions of sex, aging, and contemporary culture. It’s a fun, eclectic, vibrant site with a big audience, so when they invited me to come talk about my new novel, The Alchemy of Noise, in the context of a discussion a about fiction and its particular power to the illuminate, I was more than happy to accept.

Below you’ll find the link to the podcast, and I hope you  take a listen. Feel free to share it on social media, and certainly if you’re so inspired to express thoughts, comments, or questions, I hope you’ll visit the Facebook and Twitter pages of the The Three Tomatoes to join in the conversation yourself! Of course, you always  know where to find me.

ENJOY!


Episode #11: Stories, Imagination and the True Power of Fiction!

Guest: author, writer, Lorraine Devon Wilke

If you love reading and your first impulse is to pick up a book of fiction, then you are making a truly powerful choice. It isn’t always just entertainment! Award winning author and writer, Lorraine Devon Wilke, joins our LA Editor, Debbie Zipp, in a lively and illuminating conversation delving into the importance of fiction and why it has such a powerful impact in our lives. Lorraine’s award-winning novels, After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love, are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Her latest, The Alchemy of Noise, a literary fiction that digs deep into issues of privilege, profiling, and prejudice in contemporary Chicago, will be released April 9, 2019. Learn more at her web site.

Listen to the episode at: http://thethreetomatoes.com/happyhourpodcast


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

From Litro Magazine UK: the Prompt Was ‘Freedom’

Simple on its face; complex in its expansiveness. The following was my response…

ALL THE FREEDOM PRIVILEGE ALLOWS

by Lorraine Devon Wilke 

Picture Credits: Steve Norris


“It’s all relative,” a relative said. “You ask any person on the street about their life, and they’ll be the first to tell you they’ve had it harder than anyone else. They’ve suffered more, been more victimized, and their people put up with more abuse throughout history. They holler, ‘This life matters, that life matters, ALL life matters,’ and who the hell knows what to think anymore? Bottom line, we live in a free country and people should just shut up and be grateful for what they got. Now, go leave me alone.” ~ Overheard at the senior table sometime after lunch.

Janis Joplin told us that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” but odds are good the majority of adults living in the world today, both those old enough to get that reference and those who aren’t, embrace a more expansive, complex view of our most valued of human rights: personal freedom. Yet beyond hippie poetry and ingrained notions of entitlement, we of the western world are so accustomed to the ease and permission of the First Amendment or the Human Rights Act, our codified protections to be and do what we choose; our invitations to “speak our minds,” pursue our happiness, love who we love, or demand free Internet, that freedom as a concept is as taken for granted as the air we breathe. We revel in it, wave it, wear it, shout it from the rooftops…

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING @ LITRO UK


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

What To Give The Author Who Has Everything

Well, that’s a ridiculous headline.

There is not one author who has everything. Except maybe J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. They might. I don’t know. Probably. Everyone else? Nah. But still, I thought the title had a nice ring. I’m easy.

But if you think about all the people in your life who mean something to you, people you occasionally gift with this or that, there probably are a few writers in the bunch. And when you gift those writers, you want those gifts to be items they really want, really like, really need, right? Even in those exceedingly rare cases where they appear to have everything (which, trust me… they don’t), you want to be purposeful in your generosity to your writer pals. At least that’s the way it is for me.

And, in this particular case, we are talking about me. But not me as the gifter, me as the giftee; a writer who definitely doesn’t have everything, and would like more of what I really need (which we’ll get into in a minute).

A mentor of mine once told me, “People think you don’t need anything.” This was meant as a nod to my particular brand of independence and self-confidence, while also asserting that I was terrible at articulating what I needed, and, therefore needed to learn how to ask for what I needed since no one, apparently, presumed I did. Need anything. Which is so odd. But, OK, lesson learned.

So, in that spirit, I offer pertinent suggestions related to my upcoming book launch, an “author’s gift registry,” of sorts, to assist you in knowing what I need and would be delighted by as you join me in celebrating that event. Much like bringing flowers to an actress on opening night, except, in this case, the “flowers” are simple actions you can take that will benefit the launch in all the best possible ways, and, handily, is a list that can also be applied to any writer you’d like to honor with similarly perfect gifts.

Author’s Gift Registry for The Alchemy of Noise Launch:

1. SOCIAL MEDIA: I would be delighted if you’d share any news, thoughts, opinions you have about the book via your social media… any of the medias will do (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Share widely and freely, make jokes, coin phrases; whatever amuses you, and, if so inclined, use the hashtag #TheAlchemyofNoise whenever posting. I think we all know by now how effective social media can be in stirring word-of-mouth, and this book and I will definitely appreciate any words coming from yours. Mouth, that is.

2. PRE-ORDER THE BOOK: It turns out this is a BIG deal for everyone involved in the marketing and distribution of a new book. Pre-orders, and sales during the first few days post-launch, are VERY important for a new book (like the opening weekend of a movie). So please do me the favor of clicking right HERE to pre-order your print or e-book copy, and, if you already have, THANK YOU!

3. REVIEWS: This is another big one. Reader reviews are crazy/important in this media focused world, and every single one—no matter how long or how many stars—helps. Now I must be honest: I get squeamish asking people to write reviews for me; it feels a little bit like, “Please applaud for me, will you?” But it’s really not that. It’s a far more professional exchange, and I realized that, oddly, when I got my car windows tinted. Let me explain:

After the job was done, the guy, who’d done a great job, asked, “Hey, would you do me a favor and leave a review at Yelp for us?” I noticed I had absolutely no back off on him asking; it felt like a normal 21st century transaction where we all know posting reviews can help a business, product, book; whatever we might be reviewing. I was happy to do it and I did. I wrote a swell review about my tinted windows, all the while thinking, “If Window-Tint Man is comfortable asking, why aren’t I?”

That answer would require some deeper conversation than we need to get into right here and now, but suffice it to say I am putting aside my squeamishness to flat-out ask:

After you’ve read The Alchemy of Noise, I’d be so grateful if you’d post a review/rating of the book on the Amazon page. Just go to the book’s page, right HERE, scroll down toward the bottom of the page, click the “Write a Customer Review” button, and convey your thoughts. They don’t have to be long; candor is appreciated, and you do not have to gush (though feel free if honestly so moved 🙂 ). Know that reviews really do help potential readers decide whether or not to buy a book… as they help marketers get a sense of how your book is being received.

There. I said it. I thank you in advance.

4. GOODREADS: If you are a member of this very popular book site, I’d love if you’d add The Alchemy of Noise to your “shelf.” Just go HERE to the book’s page, then click the green button under the book thumbnail to choose your shelf. After you’ve read it, you can cut & paste the review you wrote for Amazon and copy it right there on that same Goodreads page (look, I asked again!) And feel free to “follow” and “friend,” as we do on these sites.

OH, and until March 26th there’s a Goodreads Giveaway for the book; just scroll down the page and click to take a shot at winning 1 of 10 free books being given away.

5. BOOKBUB: Similar to Goodreads, BookBub is an enormous book site that engages with both readers and authors across a deep and eclectic platform. Many of you possibly subscribe to their “deal emails,” alerting you of the slate of books on sale any given day. It’s a big site, with lots of everything, and another one where “following” my page, and copying that Amazon review over would be incredibly beneficial. Just click HERE to find me there.

6. READING EVENTS: If you’re in one of the cities where bookstores will be hosting events for my launch (in April/May)… please COME! I’d love to see you and it should be great fun. And please be prepared to purchase the book at the store so the owners think I’m one of those cools authors whose fans are attuned to supporting independent bookstores. 🙂 Check the itinerary below and/or the Facebook Event Pages for each event.

6. WEBSITE: Don’t forget to keep an eye on my website for upcoming events www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.

7. MY SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES: … they’re all below… you know what to do:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke
Facebook Writer’s page: www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke.fans/
Twitter: twitter.com/LorraineDWilke
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lorrainedevonwilke/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lorrainedwilke/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorrainedevonwilke/
Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2ZOLSA
Rock+Paper+Music blog: www.rockpapermusic.com

And that’s it; that’s the “registry,” comprehensive, complete, and, at least to this writer, incredibly valuable. I thank you in advance for your generosity, and know that you’ll always have my enthusiasm in returning the favor in kind.

Happy reading, Circle!

Gift photo by jesse ramirez on Unsplash


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

Time’s Up: Why America NEEDS a Female President. Now.

Here’s an indisputable fact: There will always be qualified men. Always.

There’s no shortage of them, they’ve been around for ages. Able, intelligent, wise men who know their way around a political campaign, who exude charm and charisma (or don’t), who have the skill set to stir the masses (or at least their fanbase), and who can surely lead the country with the verve of a bona fide, passionate leader. We all know men like that. A few have been our presidents. In fact, all our presidents have been men. It’s the norm. The tradition. The way we do things here in America.

Ah, I love the smell of patriarchy in the zeitgeist.

Now, that’s not an insult to the qualified men; it’s a statement about how patriarchy works. It makes the ascendency of men to positions of power seem the inarguable norm, the expected outcome, the “way it’s always been” reality. It demands our fealty to the notion, without second thought, that these qualified men are, have been, and will continue to be “what presidential is,” asking: “Why would you want anybody else?”

“Anybody else” being anybody who isn’t a man.

That exact question proved such a conundrum in 2016 that a huge faction of Americans were more comfortable voting for the male candidate with no experience, no integrity, a history of vile, sexist behavior, and well-documented criminal bent, than the hyper-qualified, profoundly experienced, and “most admired” public servant who, as the media and others made sure we believed, wasn’t likable enough, had a screechy voice, used a private email server, and, most notably, was a female.

We don’t do female in America’s White House.

Not behind the desk of the Oval Office. Not leading the American military. Not executing “executive orders” like so many PTA memos. Oh, they can be First Lady; they can change the drapes, handle the caterers, run interference between the male president and the media. But president?

Nah.

Patriarchy is and always has been an exacting social mandate, one that repeatedly reminds us that all these qualified men floating around are perfectly capable of handling the job without intervention from any outside contingent: Women. Sticking with the guys is neater, it’s more palatable, it’s what we’ve always done, so “don’t you gals worry yourselves, we fellas got it covered. Just step aside and let men do men’s work.”

Sure. We’ve seen how well that’s gone over the last two+ years, a debacle that’s especially galling in light of the assault-and-battery of Hillary Clinton, but, hey, you guys go ahead and make America great again, right?

Putting aside quips and sarcasm, a real question emerges: Why is it that, out of over 70 nations around the world, some of which are less politically progressive than America, we have never elected a female president? Beyond the cultural umbrella of “patriarchy,” under which all anti-woman “isms” reside, what are the specific bugaboos for why we remain entrenched in such antiquated, sexist views of who gets to be POTUS?

I thought this was an interesting take from the New York Times in “Over 70 Nations Have Been Led by Women. So Why Not the U.S.?“:

Some scholars say that European democracies may view women as more suited to high political office because their governments are known for generous social-welfare programs, something that seems maternal. In contrast, the president of the United States is primarily seen as commander in chief, which is a frame more difficult for women to fit into.

“America is still seen as the policeman of the world, the guardian of the world and we still have a very gendered version of what leadership means,” said Laura A. Liswood, secretary general of the United Nations Foundation’s Council of Women World Leaders, a network of current and former female prime ministers and presidents. “Not only do we have to be liked, we also have to be tough.”

Sue Thomas, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Santa Cruz, Calif., said that unlike political leadership posts elsewhere, the American presidency “is seen as a very masculine institution that for historical reasons is extremely hard for a female to approach.” [emphasis added by me]

That last sentence there, the one I put in bold? That’s patriarchy. That’s sexism. And after the systemic, overwhelming catastrophe that has been the Trump administration, particularly in that “very masculine” role of Commander-in-Chief, the bottom falls out of that argument with the force of a landslide.

But let’s go back to my posit, “there will always be qualified men so we don’t really need women to run” meme. If you think I’m being overly harsh, let’s look, for a moment, at what’s currently happening in the Democratic primary:

Even after the 2018 Midterms, when a battalion of strong, diverse women not only stormed the castle but claimed historical victories in every region; even after the early declarations of brilliant, accomplished, experienced, and viable female candidates like Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand, even after all that, what is happening? A slew of very qualified men are slowly  jumping in, one-by-one and after these women already declared, implicitly stating that they’re the best person for the job. Them, the qualified male.

And sure, why not? Why shouldn’t they jump in? The primary is a wide open field, everyone’s invited, and some of these are very appealing men. But, still, the message they convey by not getting behind one of the female candidates, by not endorsing and showing their support, is, quite simply, this: “You’re all great, and in another world I might get behind you and work like hell to get you elected, but even, and despite, my desire to change the gender gap so my daughter may one day run for president, I’m not going to coalesce around any of you because I think what I bring to the table is more viable.”

Because they’re a qualified man.

I don’t care about these qualified men. I mean, I care about them as people; I wish them well, thank them for their service (if that applies), look forward to their future endeavors, and hope they’ll use some of their political capital to change the archaic narrative in this country that says, “Women are not American presidents.”

But right now I don’t care about their charm, their platforms, ideas, experiences, and cult fandom. Not enough to negate and, once again, put aside what I believe is a much bigger, much more culturally relevant and urgent issue: the essential and unequivocal breaking of the glass ceiling for (very qualified) American women in regards to the presidency.

It should have happened last time. By all accounts it did happen last time, but patriarchy (and a few other noxious elements) swept in to tilt the playing field, and millions have suffered since.

Someone asked me recently: “Is it just a gender thing for you, a feminism thing? Doesn’t your single-minded focus on electing a female president almost scream of affirmative action?”

You know, it does… because it kind of is. But before Susan Sarandon comes at me squawking about how I’m voting with my vagina, let me assert my rationale. We’ll start with this, an excellent definition of affirmative action:

Affirmative Action is a program of positive action, undertaken with conviction and effort to overcome the present effects of past practices, policies, or barriers to equal employment opportunity and to achieve the full and fair participation of women, minorities and individuals with disabilities found to be underutilized in the workforce based on availability.

The purpose of affirmative action is to establish fair access to employment opportunities to create a workforce that is an accurate reflection of the demographics of the qualified available workforce in the relevant job market. Affirmative Action policies and programs are tools whereby additional efforts are made to recruit, hire and promote qualified women, minorities and individuals with disabilities. [emphasis added by me]

I could basically highlight and bold that entire thing.

Because there is not “fair access,” the presidency is not an “accurate reflection of the qualified available workforce in the relevant job market”; there is certainly not a level playing field for women running for public office.

We already see it in the way media is covering the current race; while they gush over Pete, get starry-eyed about Joe, and titter about Bernie’s fate, they’re castigating female candidates for how they eat, what they wear, how they manage their staff, who they marry, what their heritage is, what music they listen to and when. Sadly, I don’t expect that to change much as things ramp up. Patriarchy rules the media, too.

Another fact? An incredibly salient, pertinent, critical fact in this Trump era of caustically stupid leadership? Women are better managers, better leaders. That’s not just me saying that; it’s been documented.

During the 2016 campaign I wrote an article on the  topic, You Say You Want a Revolution? I Do Too. It’s Why I Support Hillary Clinton, and since quoting oneself is unseemly, let me at least re-share this paragraph from the Harvard Business Review study that found, by a comprehensive list of metrics and significant percentages, that women were better leaders, better managers of staff:

“Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.”

Yet, as of 2019, those strengths and competencies have been given short shrift in presidential politics. Time’s up.

Much like ethnic and racial minorities yearn to see themselves represented fully and fairly in every facet of culture, so do women, particularly in the arenas of business, academics, and, certainly, politics. The “old boys’ club” legacy found in the vaunted halls of political power is as dated and regressive as sexist attitudes and behaviors from the pre-#MeToo era. As cultural evolutions and a changing zeitgeist dismantle the tolerance around those issues, so do those influences change the acceptance of patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, and gender negation. Women have worked long and hard to take their rightful place on a level playing field, but until that field is, indeed, level—which it is not—a form of affirmative action must step in and demand it.

Which means, at this moment in time, that every man throwing his hat into the Democratic presidential ring must reconsider.

That every man who cares about uplifting society, who desires a world in which girls can aspire to the highest office without fear of personal evisceration and political annihilation; every man who wants to provide the world, the country, with the very best leaders, the very best managers, the most compassionate, empathetic, inspiring communicators, must pull their hat out of that ring, take a step back until another time; put their political egos in a lockbox (remember that?), and jump full-bore into supporting one of the supremely qualified women running for president.  To help ensure that she wins and, in doing so, inexorably change the face of American culture.

Will you help us accomplish that, you progressive, thoughtful, qualified men? We’d appreciate it. And, hey, being VP of the very first female president in American history has a nice ring to it too.


Three women photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Girl with flag photo by Joe Pregadio on Unsplash


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

From Book Trib — Truth Finds Its Story: The Illuminating Power of Fiction

BookTrib

Originally published 2.8.19 by Book Trib:

We live in a time when history is made by Tweets, when what happens there can instantly be known here. A time when anyone with a digital device can express views, publish opinions, or comment on news within moments of it unfolding, making the (somewhat dated) concept of “information superhighway” never more accurate…or glutted.

We want to be informed, we want to keep our awareness sharp, or maybe we just want some good old chatty entertainment, but given the sheer volume of what comes at us daily, it seems truth—and its ripple effects of impact, inspiration and illumination—often gets lost in the shuffle.

Yet truth is conveyed in many more ways than just news and social media, in just non-fiction tomes and memoirs of note. In fact, some of our most poignant cultural truths have been discovered and disseminated through stories, through imagination…through fiction.

(Click to read full article)


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

Dear Twitter Dad: What I Would Have Told Your Bullied Daughter

“My daughter is being bullied at school for being ugly. Nothing I say is helping and it’s breaking my heart. Please retweet with a message telling her how special she is,” a father desperately posted on Twitter, sharing a school photo of his perfectly average-looking and undoubtedly lovely daughter.

So, people did. Kind people. Compassionate people. People who wanted his daughter to not feel ugly. To not feel bullied. And what did most of them say?

“You are SO pretty, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
“You’re a beautiful girl. People are just nasty.”
“Oh, honey, you are GORGEOUS. They’re just jealous.”
“Look in the mirror, sweetheart. You are BEAUTIFUL.”
“Don’t listen to them, you KNOW you’re pretty.”

And so on.

Spot the trend? In almost every case, the impulse was to assure her, insist to her, convince her that she was pretty, pretty enough to not deserve bullying on that front (as if anyone deserves bullying on that front… or any front, for that matter). That’s all this kid got. The remedy to her shattered esteem. You. ARE. Pretty.

Well-intended, certainly, and maybe what her father was hoping for—a quick sugar high to cheer up a sad little girl—but to my way of thinking the tact was a wasted opportunity. And, frankly, counterproductive. Why? Because “pretty” cannot ever be the arbiter of a girl’s self-worth. Ever. It can’t be the assurance of her value, the assuagement of her hurts, and certainly not the empowerment of her esteem.

I sighed, reading tweet after gushing tweet, itching to jump in with another angle. But, unwilling to risk this child’s already fragile ego, or start a Twitter snit on her behalf (and, frankly, needing more than 280 characters to get it done), I demurred, hoping whatever boost she got from retweeted Twitter-love would suffice until she got tougher.

Female self-esteem is a curious thing. From the moment girls exist they’re awash in observations about their looks and where those looks fall on the beauty spectrum. Gorgeous, beautiful, pretty; cute, all are default compliments flowing from the mouths of appreciative adults, solidifying the implication that this element of a girl’s identity is the most highly sought. Or at least the most noticed.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with giving a little girl a compliment; everyone loves a compliment. I love a compliment. But even the most evolved of parents struggle with how to balance their daughters’ natural need for validation with how to push the focus beyond physical attributes. Because while it may seem benign to say, “You’re so pretty, sweetheart!”, when that becomes the most oft-repeated comment to a girl (which it so often does), what is the underlying message? Your looks are your greatest currency. And if looks are what elicit the most commentary, how can any other message emerge?

The difficulty is that societal attitudes about attractiveness are pretty much baked in. Studies have documented the cultural bias, conscious or otherwise, of parents, teachers, medical professionals, human resource departments, even the voting public, toward physical beauty. While other attributes may rank high in other, more narrowly defined, circumstances—science contests, sporting events, academic testing—the initial feature most noted in any generic setting is attractiveness. And, as suspected, that’s right from the get-go.

Deborah Best, PhD, is a psychologist specializing in gender stereotypes among young children. She says that the emphasis on appearance starts young.

“Children are exposed to the importance of physical appearance and attractiveness from a very early age,” says Best. “Without really thinking about the implicit messages they send, parents, family, and friends often comment on a newborn’s appearance. ‘What a pretty baby! She’s going to break some hearts!’; ‘Look at those strong legs! He’s going to be a football player!’”

In graduate school, Best studied under influential child psychologist Harriet Lange Rheingold. According to Best, Rheingold observed parents utter the above judgments in the nursery and said parents were more likely to discuss girls’ appearances than boys’.

“Adult comments on children’s physical appearance indicate to children how important it is to ‘look good’,” continues Best. “These subtle messages tell children that appearance is important and also suggest that those who are ‘better looking’ are also better people.”

From The Beauty Bias: How Attractiveness Affects Our Lives

Attractiveness even trumps other biases, like race and ethnicity. Media is eager to promote “the most beautiful girl in the world” whether she’s a blue-eyed Norwegian or a dark-skinned Ethiopian. By the time we’re adults, it transcends even the most egregious of negatives, like felonious behavior or murderous impulses (think Ted Bundy or the infamous “hot felon” who parlayed prison into a modeling career). We’re mesmerized by beauty, addicted to it; we forgive vacuousness, criminality, a lack of talent if the body embodying those traits is beautiful. The trend is epidemic in the entertainment and media industries, but even in the most unexpected of places it emerges (Esquire once ran a feature called “The Five Most Beautiful Nuns in the World”).

But in grade school, middle school, and high school? Attractiveness is the gold standard. Add the ubiquity of social media and texting, with their ease of weaponry in cyberbullying, and the pressure to please swings to heights so extreme teenagers turn to cosmetic surgery, while teen suicides, often the result of repeated shaming in public forums, are on the uprise. No wonder Twitter Dad panicked!

Now, I’m no expert but I am a woman who was a girl who, 1.) wasn’t considered “Homecoming Queen material”; 2.) had a photographer tell me, “you’re not photogenic”; 3.) worked with an agent who regularly bleated, “you’re not pretty or thin enough to be a leading lady,” and 4.) had a famous soap star tell me he’d date me if my butt was smaller. I do know the humiliation of not being seen as physically ideal. Yet I survived. I transcended. I crushed my dismissers by getting really good at the things I’m really good at that had nothing to do with being good at being pretty.

And this is what I would have told Twitter Daughter:

1. Really get this, sweetheart: Being pretty is not an achievement. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s inherited genes. It’s DNA. It’s clothes, makeup, and hair. It has nothing to do with worth or viability. Don’t over-value it; that’s the lie. Beauty really is only skin-deep. Go deeper.

2. Stop reading comments on social media or wherever, especially those directed at you. It’s hard to break the habit, it really is, but STOP. Just as you wouldn’t allow someone to repeatedly slap you in the face, don’t allow anyone’s caustic words to get inside your head. You can’t control them; you can control you and how you react and respond. Set your victim bar at ZERO.

3. Ask people you love and trust what traits of yours (beyond looks) stand out, what talents and strongpoints resonate with them. Write those down. Add your own. Honestly assess what you’re good at, where you excel. Clarify your “brand,” your most unique and valued sense of self. BE that, proudly.

4. Research people you most admire, personal or historical. Explore what inspired your admiration; note that attractiveness usually has little to do with it. Notice, too, how age becomes the great equalizer of beauty, leaving those who developed little else to become less with their lessening youth and beauty, while those who nurtured and developed their talents, their contributions to society, their compassion and art, endured. Be like them.

5. Don’t give a hoot what other people think or say about you. I know, easy to say, harder to do, but learn how to do it. It’ll be the very best gift you give yourself. And the bonus is, you’ll discover that the worthy people see exactly who you are, the others don’t matter. You do not ever need to fulfill some random criteria of attractiveness to be worthy. You’re worthy. And you’re pretty enough; decide you’re pretty enough, know you’ll always be pretty enough, then let the whole “pretty enough” meme go. Determine, and let anyone asking know, that that’s not the metric with which you will judge or be judged. Period.

There. More than 280 characters. Hopefully enough. Yes, surely enough.


Little girl photo by Kate Williams
Seated girl photo by Cristian Newman
Three girls photo by rawpixel

Related articles you might enjoy:

How to Compliment a Young Girl (Without Mentioning Looks!)
22 Compliments Not Based On Physical Appearance
50 Compliments That Have Nothing to Do With Appearance


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

Despite It All: What I Loved Best About 2018

End-of-year lists. I love them. The “best of” ones, anyway. They’re like small-plate nostalgia buffets, filled with tidbits of all the stuff you loved, distillations of an entire year from the various points of view of clever writers, of which there are many. I’m not sure how clever Iam, but as I watched the last sunset of the year dip into darkness, I thought about making my own.

This would not be announcement-worthy except for the fact I’ve found myself damn near speechless this year, particularly in terms of political opining, quiescence brought on by a combination of outrage exhaustion, a sense of swimming in an overpopulated stream, and the fact that so much of what I think and feel is amply covered by the countless other writers op-edding on a daily basis—and for media sources with far higher profiles than my little blog (I still haven’t forgiven HuffPost for shutting down the contributors’ platform!).

Add to that the “churning machine of political horrors”—also known as the Trump Administration—which pumps out ceaseless vomit with such perpetuity one would have to write five articles a day to stay current, and I ain’t got it in me right now.

But as I got to retrospecting, I was reminded that though these last twelve months have been truly nuts on so many levels, they were also replete with tremendous progress, solid wins; the evolution of new voices, and hearty activism. Enough fabulous things happened, both personally and more expansively, that I became compelled to compile.

In no particular order, not listed by virtue of gravitas or merit, the select things, people, and events that helped make this year a wonderful one… despite it all:

What I Loved Best About 2018:

• The Women’s March, Los Angeles, January 21, 2018. We were almost a million strong (750,000) just in LA alone. The numbers worldwide were astonishing. And beyond the sheer power of that many people gathered to protest racism, sexism, corruption, and sexual assault, the event marked the first time in many years I gathered with all five of my sisters (we call ourselves “The Sixters”) to march together. With matching signs designed by our youngest sib, Grace, it was a phenomenal, empowering moment of familial and global solidarity. I do hope whatever pulls and tears have come into the Women’s March group from various quarters of late can be transcended in 2019 to keep the momentum going. We’ll see. But 2018’s event was unforgettable.

• We got a cat. That may sound silly but it’s not. I’ve watched this fuzzy little creature, who came to us from a shelter on January 5th, literally change the tenor of our habitat with her inexhaustible energy and character. I’ve watched a husband who deals with Post Concussion Syndrome become the warm landing spot for an animal who loves him, who follows him around like a puppy; engages with him in absurd games of fetch, and with whom conversation often ensues (on both sides, mind you!). She is a delightful little being who’s brought particular and unique joy to our home and has made walking in the door an event. No small thing. We call her Georgy Girl. She occasionally likes me too.

• The Parkland Kids: While caustic contrarians like Louis C.K. and Dana Loesch persist in using them as target practice for their bile, those of us who’ve been frustrated and horrified by stagnancy within the “gun reform” debate saw a group of high school students who’d survived a mass shooting take their rage, fear, and sorrow and turn it into one of the most powerful political movements of recent years. I don’t care what minor critiques are dragged up, I don’t care how young and occasionally callow they may be at times; I am not remotely interested in David Hogg’s SAT scores or Emma Gonzalez’s sexuality. There is NO ONE who has more quickly, cogently, and fearlessly dragged the convoluted issue of guns into the spotlight and onto the political stage than these kids. On top of that, they rallied thousands of young people to get registered and to the polls during the midterms, activism which contributed to record-breaking turnout, and they are continuing the movement forward from there. I do believe they will create real change… because no group has ever stood up to the corruption and callousness of the NRA with such earnest and passionate fervor.

• Attitudes about Climate Change & Conservation Continue to Evolve: Despite America having an idiot president who denies science, along with the other money-grubbers who can’t see the forest for the green (lining their pockets), short-sighted dismissal about the longterm assignment of saving the planet is becoming less and less acceptable, not unlike how attitudes about smoking or littering evolved. Reports detailing the dire circumstances that inexorably face our planet, horrific fires we’re told will become the norm, droughts, pestilence, and changing tides, all remind us that we’re a finite element in a grand universe that needs, demands, our immediate attention. And more people are paying attention. While Trump and his toadies temporarily regress America on this issue, this detailed breakdown from Quartz shows there is hope across the international stage. Please read it and do continue, however you do, to challenge and lessen your own carbon footprint.

• I found a publisher. This may not resonate widely, or with anyone who hasn’t pursued a creative career, but it was a game changer for me in ’18. As one who has pursued the arts from the time I was told I could sing or cobble a story together of some merit, I have largely been an indie artist “doing it for herself,” as Annie and Aretha might sing. I’ve had scads of people throughout my time—managers, producers, collaborators, agents, etc.—who pushed things in directions I wanted to go (and sometimes arrived), but despite tremendous wins and scores of incredible experiences, no part of my particular journey has been a slam-dunk. I wasn’t the actress plucked from a coffee shop, the singer pulled on stage by a rock star, the novelist garnering literati applause. I was that other one. The one making my own stage. Working with indie film and record producers, self-financed productions, self-published books.

So this year, when publisher Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, a small but innovative and emerging force in the publishing industry, said she wanted to publish my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, despite it being controversial, despite my independent resume, despite industry resistance to off-trend voices, I felt the embracing welcome of an opened door. I don’t know how it will go when the book’s finally out (April 9th)—I’m hopeful, they’re expert, early reader reviews (so far) are good—but just to have a group of experienced pros choose to work in tandem with me to achieve this goal is a balm.

• The Midterms: In all my life I have never been more concerned, more involved, or more invested in Midterm elections than I was this year. Anyone who knows me, reads me, converses with me, knows what I think about the current administration, so it’s no secret that I believed the outcome of this election truly was “life or death.” The urgency of implementing checks and balances into what has become a blatant flouting of rule-of-law and all manner of integrity felt tantamount to pulling a drowning society from a raging swamp. I spent hours, stamps, and handwritten agony (can anyone handwrite anymore??) sending out hundreds of campaign postcards for candidates around the country, and the unbelievable turnout, the overwhelming wins, the feeling that we now have a most amazingly diverse and capable group of adults stepping into the cult frenzy, is overwhelming. We did good. Let’s PLEASE make sure we do good for 2020. That’s a whole other article. But I think you know what I mean…

• Social Media Activism:  Say what you will about Twitter and Facebook (and there’s plenty to say), in 2018 both platforms became an even more powerful outlet for righteous anger and social activism, particularly on issues related to racism and white privilege. When New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg bombarded a group of Spanish-speaking customers in a sandwich shop with his vile, racist nonsense, Twitter and Facebook outed him without mercy, and before long he was out of a job and had mariachi bands serenading his apartment building. When Barbecue Becky called the cops on a black family “committing the crime” of grilling in a park, Dr. Jennifer Schulte faced an onslaught of pushback that went all the up to her place of employment and had police considering her commitment. The list of perpetrators from every walk of life assaulting good men, women, and children of color is long, unfortunately, but there continues to be conscious, compassionate, and justifiably angry people with smart phones and social media platforms to take them on, giving activist citizens the empowerment of knowing silence is not an option when faced with hate and bigotry.

• Movies with/about music: I don’t mean musicals—thought I love musicals—I mean A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean movies that climb inside the life of singers, songwriters, and bands, and bring us with them to watch the music evolve, see the excitement and anxiety of the lifestyle unfold, feel the power of creativity. I’m not interested in critiquing these films—plenty of reviewers have done just that—but both the films mentioned had me energized, engaged, entertained, and moved throughout. That’s always an amazing moviegoing experience. And A Star Is Born, particularly, not only resonated with me for all sorts of expected reasons given my band singer history, but the telling of its story touched me deeply. Both stars are phenomenal, and though I have wearied of drug & alcohol related “Behind the Music” narratives, Bradley Cooper did an extraordinary job of bringing vulnerability and true sorrow to the inexorable trajectory his character experienced. It showed a side of addiction rarely seen. And Lady Gaga… well. What can I say: listening to the fragility and crack in her voice on “I’ll Never Love Again” before it transforms into a soaring power ballad wraps me in tears and goosebumps every time.

• Political transcendence: Allowing a corrupt and amoral conman like Donald Trump into the White House has been one of the most egregious errors in American history. I fought with everything I had—my activism, my voice, my articles, my vote—to keep that from happening, but the power of corruption, the short-sightedness of one-issue voting, the collusion and involvement of foreign adversaries, the willingness of too many to ignore blatant bigotry, lack of intellect, and a classless, corrosive worldview, toppled the good sense of an entire nation. We have paid, and will continue to pay, a very high price for that folly. Yet, while the carnage of Trump has shaken us to the core (and when I say “us” I mean anyone who cares more for humanity than stock prices, who believes all people are created equal, who respects and embraces science; who leads with compassion, empathy, consideration, and love), it has also awakened American consciousness in ways we might not have expected. It struck me that my upcoming novel is called The Alchemy of Noise, a narrative exploring the notion of pulling the good, the gold, out of the very darkest of situations, and I do believe America is finding its own alchemy in this era of Trump. (Read this piece: The halfway point: What have two years of Trump’s wrecking ball done to America?. It is quite brilliant and hopeful… I love the line, “democratic renaissance.”) 2018 has been a “democratic renaissance.” That will only continue to evolve. I have faith in that. Don’t you?

• My circle, real and virtual: As I traverse life on a day-to-day basis, whether meeting friends for lunch, gathering with family; singing songs for my mother in hope of shaking her fog, or spending time in virtual conversations with the many incredible people with whom I engage on social media, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such evolved, conscious, caring, active people in my global circle. The list is long, you know who you are, and though I would need another blog to name each of you, please know how grateful I am for your hearts and minds, your anger and activism, your humor and good-will, your pictures and silly videos, your articles and reviews, your generosity in helping me with my work, writing me blurbs, commenting on my articles, or simply sharing your own thoughtful perspectives either privately or on my pages. It all means something. You have helped me endure the insanity of our times; you’ve made me laugh, shared cakes I want to eat, brought brilliant art to my attention, and appreciated mine. Thank you. Let’s keep doing it all of that. It brings joy.

Photo by Cristina Cerda

• The power of love: That may sound treacly, but I don’t mean it that way. I mean it in the most transcendental, soulful, joy-empowering way. This year I had the pleasure of, once again, performing music with my brother, Tom, who I adore, and three other people I adore as well: Ben (his son/my nephew; Jeff, and Erik), and the love shared and experienced in putting our Sixth & Third shows together could light the grid for years. I also spent about six weeks putting a milestone birthday video together for my beloved husband, and, in the process, was reminded of every moment of our lives together, filling my heart beyond words. The family, the friends, the projects, the labors of love, our children, our pets, our closest friends… it was an overwhelming 18-minute blast of love, and it reminded me to remind myself to always remember and never forget… you know what I mean?

There are more, but these are the highlights, the things that made this year resonate and stand up to the opposite side of this list. I don’t want to enumerate the opposite side; I don’t need to. I only need to keep moving forward wrapped in the power and solidarity of the good side, the “renaissancing” side! I have faith in us. I have hope for us. I know love will drive us. Which is good, because, like Todd Rundgren, I do believe love is the answer.

Happy New Year, my friends! And welcome, 2019. Let’s make some history together.

All photos, except where attributed, by LDW.


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

When the Awful, Artful Task of Book Blurbs Comes To Blessings

For those who might not know, one of the more sensitive (and dreaded) tasks required during the process of readying one’s book for publication is the procurement of book blurbs. Considered a time-honored tool in promoting an upcoming book, the assignment requires that you reach out to authors you know and whose work you respect; authors you don’t know whose work you respect; those who might be notable in the arena your book encompasses, or, and most coveted, well-known authors whose status might lend yours a bump of credibility. You offer to send your book—or select chapters—in hopes of inspiring a few lines of endorsement that can then be affixed to your cover or review pages. It does feel like daunting duty, all that asking, and, frankly, I know a few authors who’d rather walk on Legos.

Because getting anyone, even someone you know much less a well-known author, to read your work and write a sentence or two of appreciation feels to be herculean. Everyone’s busy with their own projects, deadlines may make it problematic, and even those who initially agree can later back out for one reason or another. Since it requires a significant focus of someone’s time, the “ask” is approached, always, with some trepidation and a big dollop of sensitivity. You don’t want to appear presumptuous, you don’t want to come off as gushing or obsequious, and certainly you don’t want to risk the pang of brusque and/or unspoken dismissal (though if you’ve ever queried agents you already know what that feels like!). So you proceed with as much elegance and decorum as you can muster, and if you do reach out to a “famous writer,” you do so graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.

I heard back from Rebecca Wells.

As the author of one of my favorite books, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Ms. Wells captured my admiration years ago when I first read that book and her many subsequent and attendant titles. And while my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is not necessarily a “comp title,” a bit darker and more urban than her own work, the connecting point—beyond my creative respect—is our shared category of “contemporary literary fiction.” It seemed worth a shot.

My letter opened with:

“I was sitting in a natural mineral pool in Desert Hot Springs, CA, when I read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I was with a group of women friends, none of whom had had my particular Catholic upbringing, some of whom shared the legacy of a loving, crazy, narcissistic mother, and as I emerged from the steaming water with teary eyes, the goose bumps on my arms were not from the cold: I had been transported. I looked at them and said, ‘I don’t know why I’d ever think of writing after reading this book…it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.’

“Despite that earnest disclaimer, I transmuted my awe into inspiration and did proceed to write my first novel…”

From there I told her a bit about my own journey as an author; I kept it brief, I asked if I could send my new book, or just a few chapters, with hopes of a short endorsement, and concluded (as prescribed above) graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.

And yet I did.

Not even two weeks later I received a sweet handwritten letter on a piece of lined notepaper: “It makes me smile to think of your meeting the Ya-Yas in a hot tub!”

She went on to explain that she was knee-deep in her own soon-to-be-published project, and though she would be unable to carve out time to read and endorse my book, she concluded with:

“Many congratulations on your writing! What guts it takes to sit on our butts and do this… I do send you all the best wishes as this new one goes forth into the world. Thank you for asking me… 84,000 Blessings, Rebecca Wells.”

Wow.

In an industry (a world!) where far too many make too little effort to respond and relate to those who reach out to them, I’m always astonished when someone does, particularly someone whose high-profile comes with commensurate demands on their time and attention.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to contact famous authors you admire. Even if they don’t have time to read and endorse your book (most won’t), you will have made a connection with someone whose work touched you, and who knows where that may lead? And if you’re lucky, you may walk away with not only their best wishes, but their blessings… 84,000 of them, and that is something that—in this crazy world—is always, always, appreciated.

Next up: What I Learned When I Heard Back From Jodi Picoult 


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon.  Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to her other books, music, photography, and articles.

RIOT ON SUNSET: Mark Bryson’s New Album Offers a Striking Mix Of Words and Music

One of the things I love about artists is their indefatigable drive to create art—no matter what age, how many setbacks, who and what got in the way, or which well-meaning professional tried to steer them differently. They are simply compelled to continue. And they do. They create. Over decades, through family dramas, health catastrophes, catering gigs, broken relationships, and all manner of distractions life throws onto the long and winding road.

One such artist is my pal, Mark Bryson.

I met Mark back in the late 70s, when he worked at one of those very trendy “waiters-sing-&-play” kind of places in Los Angeles called Hi-Pockets: The Great American Food & Beverage Company. The name was too long, parking could be a bitch, but the food was good, there were amazing ice cream concoctions, and many of the servers were extraordinary singers and songwriters. In fact, the fabulous Lowen & Navarro (whose “We Belong” became a mega-hit for Pat Benatar) originated there too. It was that kind of place. Mark fit right in.

But over time, Hi-Pockets closed, people moved on, and in the ensuing years I lost track of Mark. We’d occasionally see each other at Lowen & Navarro gigs or certain gatherings, and though I knew he was wrangling his own version of “life’s distractions,” I also knew he was still writing. Every once in a while he’d send something for me to listen to, to offer perspective; sometimes he’d get back to Los Angeles to perform, and what clearly stood out, despite the time and distance, was that “indefatigable drive” I mentioned up top: he never stopped dreaming that dream of his—to put together an album that honored his style and sensibilities as a songwriter, a lyricist, singer and interpreter of his own music. And he finally has. Strikingly, artfully, gorgeously.

Riot On Sunset, a 12-song (+coda) collection of lyrical story-oriented tunes, is not only the culmination of that long-held dream, it is a spectacular album, one dedicated to “the City of Angeles, the Creative & Imaginative, and to all of us with Hopes, Dreams, and the occasional nightmare.” Which certainly struck a chord for me…. but what artist who’s ever found themselves in the great city of Los Angeles pursuing a dream wouldn’t identify with that?

Beautifully arranged and produced by Bryson (along with the very talented team of Gregg Olson and Allison VonBuelow, who both play and sing on the tracks), the songs unfold in a variety of styles, with lush harmonies, gorgeous instrumentation, and the eclectic, passionate voice of the man in the middle. There are glimmers of influence—Springsteen, Coldplay, Dave Matthews, even the Beach Boys—but Bryson is solidly original, not only in what he says, but how he says it.

The title track, “Riot on Sunset,” is an evocative tale of yearning, one that locates us immediately in Bryson’s universe on the infamous Sunset Strip (the CD’s photos are shot there). And while “Abbot Kinney” takes us west to Santa Monica, it’s “Girls On the Run” that sprinkles a little Beatles/Beach Boys playfulness into the mix. “Shady Side” spins a dark, urban mood with cinematic imagery, “Into the Light” pulls us in the opposite direction with almost Peter & Gordonesque swing, and “Brave New World” evokes a Coldplay edge of earnestness. “Stranger In a Strange Land” blends a western vibe with what struck me as Jefferson Airplane backups—a mash-up that, oddly, works. “Easy To Fall” (“easy to fall, hard to land”), “End of the World” (“all my Facebook friends are fighting, I’m just not in the mood”), and “Dream Works” (“make our footprint smaller, fit it in a shoebox”), all blend clever, lyrical imagery with messages wherever Bryson can squeeze them in without losing the beat.

The standouts for me are “Johannesburg,” a touching, powerful narrative Bryson delivers with gritty, dramatic vocals, the story of a man whose life touches his own, and “Best I Can Tell,” a simply gorgeous track of deeply personal lyrics (“This is my life, I am the keeper of my dreams… there are no angels watching over me. Best I can tell, I’m still the boss of me.”). Its anthemic chorus (“there’s more we can do when we all pull together”) not only had me singing along, I could picture iPhones held high as audiences sway and sing that evocative line over and over.

Bryson describes his work as “New Age Space Cowboy Surf Poet”—clever, but don’t let his tongue-in-cheek description distract you from the depth of this work: artful, human, literary, with stories and musicality that reach deep to strike chords and touch hearts. It may have taken him a while to get here, but my friend has honored both his journey and lifelong dream with a defining piece of creativity, one whose timelessness will have me listening for years to come.

You can pick up Riot On Sunset (in either CD or digital formats) at markbryson.hearnow.com, which will get you to his CDBaby page. To follow his musical adventures with the album (and whatever else he stirs up!), head on over and “like” his page on Facebook: Mark Bryson Music.

Photo by permission of Mark Bryson

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

My Aretha… We Each Had Our Own, Didn’t We?

For a little white girl growing up in the cornfields and cow pastures of the deeply homogenized environs of Richmond, Illinois, a tiny northern Illinois farm town biking distance from the Wisconsin border, it may seem anomalous that Aretha Franklin would be one of my greatest influences and inspirations… but she was.

Maybe it was the Chicago in me; born in that great and diverse city, I spent the first three years of my life there, and maybe the indigenous “blues brothers” vibe rubbed off. Or maybe it was the Greek roots of my father’s parents, whose attachment to music that got one moving (“opa!”) was an integral part of their heritage. Maybe it was that, even while reveling in my early years as a fledgling folksinger, there was just something about Motown that made dancing in the streets a rite-of-passage even for small-towners in flip-flops and shaggy cutoffs.

Maybe it was just Aretha. Yeah. Probably just Aretha.

Both my parents, born and raised in Chicago, were lovers of music and “swing,” (and by that I mean the FEEL of music, not just the style), and any song that provided the right beat, the right rhythm, the right groove factor would set them jitterbugging across the living room floor as we kids watched in delight. It didn’t escape us that “Rock Steady” and “Chain of Fools” were as high on their playlist as any Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller song. My dad, in fact, was a particular fan of “Chain of Fools”; always told me that beat, that bass line, were impossible to resist. He was right. That song (amongst other Aretha favorites) has been on my permanent playlist since that time, transitioning from my stack of LPs, to my cassettes, to the inimitable Walkman, right up to top position on my iPhone playlist.

So when I started singing in bands in the 70s, it really wasn’t so anomalous that her soulful, heartfelt, skin-tingling delivery would be what inspired and influenced me. I wanted to emulate her, be her. Fear of “cultural appropriation” wasn’t a trending deterrent back then—my adoration was seen simply as homage—but despite my respect and desire, it quickly became clear that—given her mastery plus my own vocal limitations —I would have to settle for a version of vocal-heart-and-soul that worked for my voice, my style. And so I did. It wasn’t Aretha—damn, surely it wasn’t Aretha!—but it was mine and it not only informed every recording and performance I’ve done since, but I’ve almost never had a band set list that didn’t include at least one Aretha song:

“Oh Me Oh My,” “Rock Steady,” and “Respect” were fixtures in the early days; then followed “Day Dreaming,” “Natural Woman,” and “Chain of Fools” (and, oh, did we do some odd 80s versions of that one!). When the blues/rock band of the 00s came about, we added “Evil Gal Blues” and “Since You’ve Been Gone.” Every one was an honor for me to sing.

Or play… when my son was a baby, “Rock Steady” was the single most relied upon “lullaby” to rock his screaming little self to sleep!

I knew Aretha had been struggling with ill-health for some time now, so hearing that her death was upon us did not surprise me. Certainly it saddened me. It is the conclusion of a great, grand life filled with music and love and passion and creativity that inspired people of every race, creed and color to feel, to dance, to embrace love; to get sassy, or roil in the blues. She was a purveyor of so much SOUL I must capitalize, bold, and italicize the word. That she will not be making more music is surely an existential tragedy; that she’s left so much behind is an enduring gift.

I wanted to use the above photograph because that shot—the very young, just-finding-the-spotlight Aretha—is how she looked when I first became aware of her. When my sister Mary and I bopped around our basement bedroom grooving to her rhythms, certain we were as soulful and funky as the kids on Shindig or Hullabaloo (we weren’t), thrilled by her electric voice and thumping rhythms. It reminds me that we all get to be young and gifted, that we all get our own life story, our own chance to create, impact, influence, and inspire; leave a legacy. Aretha fulfilled that mandate so very, very well. We—I—will miss her greatly.

(Quiet now… “I Say a Little Prayer for You” is coming up… ).

Photo credits; Billboard

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