Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa Ju at Metz & Co - Amsterdam

A long time ago, I worked at Metz & Co, a small department store in Amsterdam, as the assistant to Cok de Rooy (since 1992 co-owner of The Frozen Fountain a haven for designers and lovers of Design in Amsterdam. The following is my memory of Holiday Season 1977.


Nine sharp I enter the buyers' office. Technically I'm in time, but you could also argue that I'm late, after all, I still have to hang up my coat. To my surprise the office isn't empty as usual when I arrive. Mr. Henselein the general manager of Metz & Co, leans into the conference table in the middle of the room where designers and artisans eager to sell to Metz, get to display their creations. I've only seen Mr. H once or twice before.
"Morning," he smiles at me without showing his teeth. "Like I said de Rooy, it means extra attention for our Christmas Market."
"Judith," Cok raises his eyebrows as a greeting.
I feel caught.
"Don't tell me, your mother called?"
Mr. H looks puzzled from Cok to me and back again.
If he weren't present, I'd tell Cok I'm in time because Mama didn't call me. Without her interference I can be in and out of the shower, dressed and on my bicycle to work in twenty-five minutes, add ten minutes of shortcuts through alleys and pedestrian areas, avoiding all traffic lights, and I'm at the Keizersgracht, locking my bike three minutes to nine. Cok must have left early to beat traffic himself, he usually arrives after I've sat down at my desk, but why is Mr. H. so early and what's he so exited about? I'll have to ask Cok.
Mister H answers my question himself. "Heinz Polzer is popular. Man he may have his Master's in Economics, he's the best known singing poet in the country. We'll get all kinds of good exposure by having him present that book of antique postcards to the Press here, at Metz."
Who's a singing poet with a Master's in Economics?
Seeing the question mark on my face Cok says, "You surely know Doctorandus P? That's the pseudonym of this Polzer fellow."
"Oh, Doctorandus P of course I know about him. He's that absentminded professor-type with a really bad voice that sings all those funny songs. I just heard his, "Troika here, troika there", on the radio. But he's also known for higgledy piggledy."
"Higgledy Piggledy? Oh, you mean Ollekebolleke," Mr. H grins, "That's it, you see Cok, even your assistant knows Doctorandus P."
"That doesn't mean a thing. Judith knows everybody. Anyway, that’s beside the point." He turns to me, "Tiebosch has published Doctorandus P's collection of antique postcards. You can tear the cards out of the book and send them like regular postcards. That it's a gift article rather than just a book justifies us selling copies in the store."
"We're going to have Santa Claus present Doctorandus P's book to the press here at Metz," H says.
"Why Santa Claus? Dutch children believe in Sinterklaas not in Santa," I say.
"Smart girl. You've got a point there. But using Santa will bring extra attention to our Christmas Market." Mr. H rises and slaps his hand on Cok's desk, "It just occurs to me we don't need an extra budget for a model, your assistant here, will make a wonderful Santa. I'll say it once more, and I won't say it again, it'll be great advertising for the holiday season."
Santa? Me? He sure knows how to compliment a girl.
"She's got enough work as is," Cok says.
 "Didn't you re-write the job description? I'm sure you'll work it out together," Mr. H winks at me.

How does the boss know?
I thought that arrangement was something between Cok and me. The moment he saw the photo he took of me, bent over paperwork, he felt sorry that I had to do all the invoice administration, and so on, by myself. He decided that we'd split the paperwork so that I could take on some of the more creative responsibilities.

"Piece of cake for you Judith. You can walk over to the costume rental place, it's just a few houses down the canal. They'll get you fitted for the costume, the wig and the beard. With those rosy cheeks you'll hardly need any make-up."
"All right then. It's up to Judith," Cok taps his pencil on his calendar. "Like I said, she's got plenty to do as is." He clearly isn't that crazy about the idea. But if it's really up to me, I'll do anything that'll take me away from my desk. Besides, meeting Doctorandus P is a real opportunity.

Cyclists who encounter me in the street, the short distance from the costume rental to Metz & Co smile at me, but the sales women inside the store look at me like I'm an intruder or a bum.
"What?" I want to grumble, "Do you think I'll pull out a flask?" But I don't. On my way to the 6th floor I say nothing but "Ho, ho, ho," each time a customer steps into the elevator.
"Must have come in from Liberty's of London," someone says.
I pat my character's thick waist. I'm wearing my own clothes underneath the flannel suit and the rolled up excess material of the men's size pants makes me look extra chubby.

Cok and Mr. H meet me in the Rietveld cupola, they introduce me to the photographer and a stylist. The latter has me get on my knees between the Christmas display tables, to wrap a copy of Drs. P's book in Christmas paper. I'm a professional wrapper. That's what got me started working for Bullock's in Westwood in 1974, so I know it's looking good. 

Doctorandus P arrives, and he and I step onto the flat roof beside the cupola. I give it my best, want to be noticed by this man, but to him I'm Santa, not a young woman waiting to be recognized for her acting talents. He doesn't even look me in the eye. But Mr. H is pleased.

Within an hour of leaving the costume rental place as a Santa, I'm sitting in the window at Berkhoff's the bakery/ tearoom across the canal, in my regular clothes, sucking whipped cream off my hot cocoa, and digging into the flaky pastry surrounding the baked apple, not a worry about my waist.

Happy Holiday Season to You All! A Season to Share Memories - Care to Share Yours? Leave a comment!

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Triggers of Imagination for Writer

What's my favorite photo?

That's hard to say, the answer changes from moment to moment. I had prepped a certain picture to write about, but I look up, and there's my father in a relaxed pose, his weight on his left leg, he is leaning against a door post, his shirttails out, hands in pants' pockets, pipe in his mouth. This must be a photo of him I've studied the least. I've got to get up from my desk and take the garrrish framed picture (why on earth did my mother chose such an ornate molded metal design?) from "Papa's Chest" —most of the inherited furniture I've shipped across the ocean has similar possessive descriptions— to take a closer look.

No, I was wrong, no hanging shirttails, he's wearing a light colored, 3/4 unzipped jacket on a white tee-shirt and dark slacks. From the sheen and cut, I take it the jacket material could be a lightweight suede, but it could also be a gabardine. The trousers still have the high waistband, the buckle of his belt is positioned under his midrif. I like his shoes, are they suede? He looks trim and tan, he has a short moustache, and his hair is short, but growing out.

At first glance it seems he's standing just outside the door of a shop, behind the store's window you can see frames, is it a frame shop? The brick wall brings to the surface another photograph though, one where he's seated on a chair of a rustic terrace set, he used on the porch of his beach front house in Zandvoort. No, no, no. Stay with the first picture!

There's a small plaque on the door jamb, underneath that a simple white on black push bell. this could be a store or a home, I don't know and most likely will never know. My father was born in 1898 and died in 1969, his contemporaries are all dead. Still, I try to fit the pieces of his life together, bit by bit an image of a man I only new for a short time, appears. This framed photograph is the one my mother chose to have out in the open. Illness, old age and death took that man away from her, and yet, what remains is the memory. This may be how my father looked when my mother first set eyes on him. And so my story starts ...

Writers are often told to write what they know, but don't we really write to discover what we don't know? I for one am always searching for the hidden message, whether it's truth or just a figment of my imagination.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Friday, November 25, 2011

Remembering Photos From Lost Album

My friend Anastasia Ashman has made use of Storify to deconstruct the logo of Global Niche. Great idea, I write to her, I'm going to do the same for the cover of my book Creative Acts of Healing. I head for the shelf in my husband's music room, where I know our photo albums and boxes filled with slides. I've got to find the photos Milka Henriques de Castro shot, a whole series of me drinking coffee from forest green, gold rimmed cups.

In 1993 I photo copied and blew up one of those photos for a collage in which I combined the echoscopy of our unborn child, the only live picture we would have of our baby daughter. I can't find the album. For days I'm in distress. I wake up twice thinking about the album, I wake up seeing the cover, a graphic design in shocking pink, turquoise and yellow, and vividly remember some of the pictures, images of my past.

The missing album was the first I filled with photographs made with the first camera I could call my own, a Ricoh 500 GX. I'm thinking of the photos that are lost with the album, and try to remember them. To my surprise many exist in my memory.

  • My friend Anita Löwenhardt at Terrace of Scheltema or de Swart in Amsterdam.
  • More pictures of Amsterdam street life.
  • The 500-year-old Huguenots "mas" of Annie de Rot Hazard's in Les Baux, and her dogs, water reservoir on the roof, unimagined luxury behind centuries old walls of what looks like humble dwelling, the rest is hacked out into the rocks of the hill. Walls of natural rock, all windows barred, the faucets in the bathroom gilded.
  • The dark haired smiling olive seller, who flirted with Annie and me at market in St. Remy, de Provence.
  • A metal bowl the seller filled with vegetables I chose at his stall.
  • The juggler in red leggings, and long sleeved tee shirt, decorated with stars, a cap on his head, at a market in Arles.
  • Man on stilts
  • Woman with chicken in crates.
  • The park steps leading to street on higher level.
  • Plaque about Van Gogh.
  • Poster on ancient stone wall patched with cement, about the bull fights.
  • Picture of the arena (I visited again with Gary in 2002).
  • Interior of Mas at Les Baux
  • Narrow and winding steep streets, more corridors between rows of buildings, of Les Baux
  • The courtyard of Annie's L'Herbier de Province store, in St. Remy, de Provence, picture perfect with the table, chairs and baskets filled with hand-milled soaps.
  • The mute boy in the house of Pat Pringle's mistress on Fomenter (from slide?)=
  • The olive grove I slept in, near Ingie Pringle's summer dwelling (from slide?)
  • Ingie and friends and children plus me in the woods, hippie chicks (from slide?)
  • Parasols on beach in Majorca (from slide)
  • Railing of (empty) cruise ship Mediterranean, I was the only traveler.
  • Exhibitionist on bluff (no photo, just memory)
  • Majorca stormy weather, hotel room, sunstroke
Black and white photos I developed myself:
  • Olav in flat on Ferdinand Bol str. with broken leg
  • My black cat Spooky Tooth at Olav's home, in easy chair (upholstered in pink velvet in my memory)
  • Judith in Olav's kitchen behind stove in Guernsey sweater holding Dutch oven.
 Again color prints:
  • Christmas at Jeannette's with children, Simone, Niels, Han + my collapsed coffee soufflé
  • St. Nicolas at Jeannette's with Robert van der Hoop
  • John Leerdam playing chess with Niel's friends
Black and white photos made by photographer Marjan Schelvis

  • The Turkish actor and me, modeling for Marjan Schelvis on the roof terrace at 3rd  Wittenburgerdwarsstraat in Amsterdam. So young, so fun, me in shopping cart, dressed in sweat pants and tee-shirt, my hair a mop. The PROOST sign of the paper factory in the background.

Days go by and I'm still thinking of the album, more images and memories in black and white surface.
  • Mamado in door opening between kitchen and dining/living room, with soup cup on saucer, Papa's wood carved chests in sight.
  • Sophie at a bus stop somewhere, dressed in her leather 3/4 coat
  • Judith in vieux rose, padded winter jacket without a hood, at the same bus stop.
It occurs to me that I have the same look of concentration on my face in regards to the Dutch oven in the kitchen at Olav's home, as my mother carrying that cup of soup to the dinner table.
Me, My mother, myself, I, a memory mixture of a book by Nancy Friday I recognized myself in, and a song by Joan Armatrading I listened to over and over.

The best photo I've ever taken may be lost with the album, it exists in my memory.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Still Life September 9, 2001
Second week of  September 2001, I'm painting sunflowers from my P-Patch at the top of Queen Anne Hill, in my studio at the Work Lofts on Western Avenue in Seattle.

Still Life September 10, 2001

Flowers age in vase
seed heads heavy with promise
Still Life September 11, 2001
Nature's hopeful signs.
Still Life Remembering 9/11

Paint, imagery —my tears 
on paper. And yet, hope for the 
future lies in the seeds.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learning about Addison's

Sometimes you hurt someone's feelings without being aware of it. Often you never know you did. Thankfully some people do tell you where you went in the wrong. 

Someone I follow on Twitter appeared to have a new portrait picture. I didn't remember seeing the sunny tan before. Since this person tweeted about an upgrade, I complimented in return: upgrade = extra tan?

Mind you, it may be winter on the other side of the globe, it's high summer in the western hemisphere, so how wrong could that remark have been? Quite wrong. A rare disease called Addison's makes a person's skin turn a reddish brown, and that's not all, as I found out Online. Addison's is not something to joke about. Thanks to the Tweep's response I now know a little bit about the disease.

The incident made me think of grief and how mourners are sadly the ones who have to educate the others. Thanks to the TV series "House MD" viewers are introduced more and more to hitherto barely known diseases. I've read that members of patients' support groups have written letters to the producers of "House MD" to thank them for educating viewers about diseases that are often unknown and not understood. As far as I know they haven't covered Addison's.

The next time I see a person with an unseasonable tan, I'll be reminded of what I found out today.

Knowledge may result in compassion. 

HealthScouter Addison's Disease: Addison Disease Symptoms and Addison's Disease Treatment

2009 Conquering Addison's Disease - The Empowered Patient's Complete Reference - Diagnosis, Treatment Options, Prognosis (Two CD-ROM Set)

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Monday, August 01, 2011

Asian Pacific Islander American Writers

This summer the International Examiner published the annual Pacific Reader which includes a Literary Supplement of APIA book reviews
What the hell is APIA? 
You know you're an outsider when you have to look up the meaning of an acronym. Yes, I did. So much for having been the IE's Arts writer from 2004 - 2006 and so much for having interviewed Asian American authors and written reviews of their books. My excuse? I'm a white Western woman who hails from the Netherlands, an ESL writer and reader. 
What the hell is ESL, I hear my Dutch friends think (yes, you, I'll give the answer at the bottom of this post).

The heading APIA Literature that Influenced Me made me think about the effect the books I've read and reviewed for the International Examiner and the Pacific Reader had on me.
Here are a few of the titles:
    As a Dutch national I have friends who lived in Indonesia at the onset of WWII. Fathers were hauled away, mothers and children imprisoned in camps by Japanese soldiers. My Dutch - Japanese American friend Giotta Tajiri wondered about the attitude of Dutch people toward "the Japanese". That her father Shinkichi had fought with the American 442nd Regimental Combat Team against Nazis in Europe came as a total surprise to me at the time. I was quite surprised to learn that Shinkichi's family was imprisoned by fellow American citizens, while other Dutch friends of mine were tortured (their relatives killed) by Japanese soldiers in Indonesia. Gruenwald's book only added to my understanding how important it is to read widely, because the title says it all, and yet may come as a surprise.
      This collection of short stories made me feel like a well informed tourist, not just a foreigner who suffers from culture shock. Great beach reads I'd say. 
        The I.E. published a review of Juliet Kono's latest book Anshu: Dark Sorrow and is on my wish list. She brings to life the Japanese-American community in Hawaii like no other poet/ writer. 
      As an English as a Second Language Reader I gain tremendous understanding of American culture by reading across the border, by taking in stories written by immigrants and expats, by foreigners and nationals. Reading is fundamental, reading is powerful, reading is a must.

      Sunday, July 31, 2011

      Looking Like the Enemy - Memoir about Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps

      Many of us have a story within that begs to be told. We put it off, and off, telling ourselves: "One day, I'll sit down and write it down." Often we need a little push.

      Around 1990, Mary Gruenewald Matsuda's son and middle child said, "Mom you have never told us about Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Yonei." Gruenewald (65 at the time) figured that if her own three children, and her brother Yoneichi's four daughters (their father died in 1985) were interested in their family history, it was up to her to tell the story.

      She started by listing the facts as she knew them. In January of 1999, Gruenewald's daughter-in-law mentioned author and teacher Brenda Peterson was leading a writers group in Seattle. Until she joined the group, Gruenewald's writing had been all-inclusive. Peterson suggested she ought to write a memoir focused on the war years and her camp experience. She advised her student to make a laundry list, of everything she wished to address.

      That done, the writer listed years —starting with 1941— on a stretch of butcher paper, laid out on the floor. Next she added the items from the laundry list; content for scenes and chapters. In Peterson's class she learned how to apply tools of fiction: adding character, dialogue and story line to her factual material.

      In Looking Like the Enemy (The Young Reader's Edition: My story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps, Gruenewald doesn't just relate her own story in an engaging manner, her writing is a tribute to the mother whose wisdom she wishes to share with people who aren't lucky enough to have (had) such a wise parent. Exposing her heart and soul on paper was not easy. Gruenewald remembers how Trip, a fellow writing student said: “Mary we came to class ready to read your words about Mama-san and you dismissed her in 200 words!"

      In this case interview with the author.
      Gruenewald then knew she had to go back to her desk, write with all the beautiful detail she had learned to use, excavating the painful as well as dear memories. Double hard because: "Culturally it was not done to reveal." And yet writing has proven to be rewarding and gratifying to the now octogenarian author. Gruenewald says she's not same person she was, before she started to write her memoir. She had for instance been prejudiced against "No, no!" people (those against Japanese young men fighting for US army). Mary's family belonged to the "Yes, yes!" sayers.

      While working on the book, she came to understand that both sides were living according to their convictions, each equally valuable and difficult. The "No, no!" sayers had to withstand rejection, they were ostracized. Gruenewald remembers situations in the camp, where a father was pro Japan, and the son was not: "Families got torn apart that way."

      Writing gave Mary respect for those who thought differently. She learned to appreciate the value of democracy, where you have the right to dissent.

      "During the 70's and 80's there was a movement to extract an apology from the US Government. Less than 1% of the Japanese American population stood up."

      That this movement did not bring the people together pains Gruenewald till today. She states that both the soldiers of the 442nd, and the "No-no!" sayers, need to be honored next to each other. "We need both of them, those loyal and critics."

      Gruenewald cried a lot while writing her war memoir, but it was cathartic, and she recommends writing —getting that story down on paper— to others. She says that people have been coming out of the woodwork since her book was published, people from her past, people she grew up with. She talks more now, than ever; her heart is lighter and she's been told that she smiles more.

      A senior friend showed her his life story, 25 written pages. Remembering her own starting point, and knowing that each paragraph could be made into one whole chapter, she told her friend: "Have courage! Be brave!" For that's what it takes to write in all honesty, delve deep into one's own, and family's past.

      Gruenewald's advice for those who want to embark on a similar adventure: "Enroll in a writing group, write with people. You learn from each other. Come with pages to class. You get notes and a different perspective on your material, while you remain the authority."

      Reconciled with her past, the author of the beautifully crafted memoir plans visited Japan in the spring of 2006 to share here story there. Finally.

      Previously published on October 5, 2005 in the International Examiner.
      © 2005 Judith van Praag, All Rights Reserved

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Saturday, July 02, 2011

      Nazis Lecture Farmers on Bolshewism

      Friese meisjes tegen het Bolsjewisme by NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust en Genocid
      Friese meisjes tegen het Bolsjewisme, a photo by NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust en Genocid on Flickr.

      Frisian Girls Against Bolshewism?

      The caption placed with the photograph is most suggestive. No wonder an American visitor thought the photo must have been made right after WWII, when the Red Scare and fear of Bolshewiks colored many a Westerner's paranoid view of the world. Even if it wasn't the intention of the NIOD, the words play right into the old fear of Marxist and Leninist theory and communist practice. 

      In reality the Frisian girls were part of a 1941 gathering of farmers in Rolde, a hamlet in Drenthe, one of the three northern provinces in the Netherlands. The speaker was Arthur Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian Nazi who ruled over the Netherlands during the German occupation. By scaring the farmers with what the Bolshewiks might do to the country, the Nazis hoped to gain followers and collaborators.

      He used his I.Q. of 141 (he was tested at the Nurenburg Trials) in a cunning way. After the German fighter planes bombed the hell out of Rotterdam, Seyss Inquart sent homeless children on vacation to Gmunden in his heimat or homeland Austria, which was called Ostmark during the German ruling. When the children return to The Hague, they spoke German and some shook hands with Seyss-Inquart, who told them to give their parents his regards.

      During his inauguration speech Seyss-Inquart didn't mince words. The help given to the Dutch was not charity, but a means to create goodwill —a political tool, he stressed.

      Seyss-Inquart was successful, a large number of farmers in the three northern provinces joined the NSB, the National Socialist Party, which should not be confused with the Labor Party. The NSB started as a regular political party, but soon adopted the Nazi ideology. Hundreds of NSB members would eventually join the Dutch fraction of the SS.

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      Theatre Institute Netherlands Forced to Close?

      Studying theater design at the Rietveld academy in Amsterdam involved regular visits to the Netherlands Theatre Institute as TIN (Theater Instituut Nederland) was called back then. The ITI was the place to borrow published plays, books on theater history, costuming, set design and the likes. The institute made a tremendous impression on me.
      ITI then /TIN now: Theater Arts are Important!

      Today you can find TIN on the Sarphatistraat, back then the Amsterdam institution was situated in a monumental building on the Herengracht that breathed history, even before you had opened a book, or laid eyes on the museum collection. ITI was about the past, the present and the future of Dutch theater arts. At the time my questions were answered by Hanna Oberman, a budding dramaturge who fulfilled her internship at the ITI library. Oberman who already held a Law degree, did not take her oratory talents to the court stage, but co-created with Rob Klinkenberg the indispensable handbook of monologues for actors "Nu ben ik alleen" (Now I'm by myself). It's not difficult to guess where the authors (pre-Internet) conducted part of their research ...

      The role of ITI as an international liaison became clear when I joined Taller Amsterdam, an artists collective headed by Armando Bergallo and Hector Vilche. When we took Taller's multimedia show The Desert to Le Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, we ran into a big problem. The incoming director, Patrice Chéreau, was going to bring in his own people and fire staff members. The ensuing strike threatened to keep our show from opening. Ruud Engelander the representative of the International Theatre Institute in the Netherlands came to our rescue and The Desert did have its premiere in Nanterre.

      ITI was one of the destinations to take visitors from out of town and abroad, to share highlights in the museum collections, and watch registrations of avant garde as well as traditional theater performances stored in the video bank. And one summer I worked a few days as a costumer with the touring company of the American Repertory Theatre, no doubt thanks to my connections at ITI.

      Theater Instituut Nederland is the hub for theater lovers and theater makers, national and international thespians alike.

      Over the years TIN has become a more and more important player in the international theater world. And yet Halbe Zeilstra, Secretary of State for Culture wants to cut the subsidies for this institution. Completely. The gall!

      Sign the petition for the Government to reconsider!
      Tweet your solidarity #steunTIN (#supportTIN).

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Friday, June 10, 2011

      Trust30 | Power is in the Numbers

      There's a fellow, long dead, who has a Facebook page, 740 people (make that 1,002 on 6/30/2011) who like him and a book that sells like hot cakes. His fans are posting on his wall on a daily basis, engage in discussions and recommend his book to each other, their friends, and probably to everybody else and their grandmothers. The author's initials are: RWE and if you didn't guess his name, all his info is just a click on the link away.

      RWE's Facebook Page is part of a marketing campaign that's so clever it give me the chills.

      Pleased to introduce myself...
      RWE wrote an essay titled: Self-Reliance which has been re-published by Seth Godin, the marketing expert and entrepreneur.  His publishing venture —powered by Amazon—is called The Domino Project. Curious how it works? Radio host Nora Young interviewed Godin about the Domino Project for Spark a weekly audio blog.

      How do you get people to talk about a book (or any product for that matter) day-in day-out for 30 days in a row?

      You engage them, by inviting them to participate in a project that helps them to trust in their own abilities. You give them something to look forward to, and make them part of a tribe. That's exactly what Amber Rae the "chief evangelist" of The Domino Project has done by inviting her readers to the Trust Yourself (#Trust30) Writing Challenge. 
      "#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey."
      The participants who  have taken a pledge to respond to the daily prompt, link with the "authors" of the prompts, by means of Twitter and the authors' websites.

      It's a win-win situation.

      The 30 "authors" who sit close to the fire get a huge exposure, and new followers on Twitter. In principle the same is true for the participants. The blogs where they post their response to the prompts may be read by other participants and along the way they become part of the #Trust30 tribe.

      And meanwhile Seth Godin is selling more copies of Self-Reliance, the essay by the long dead Facebook member, the poet, philosopher, preacher Ralph Waldo Emerson.

      Is this a creative marketing campaign or what?

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Monday, May 30, 2011

      Choose 5 Fictional Characters for a Dinner Party

      Kim Koning aka Girl with a quill asked me to do just that in an interview early May 2011.
       My answer:
      1 - Clara Forsythe Allen, Augustus “Gus” McCrae’s old sweetheart in Larry McMurtry’s epic novel Lonesome Dove. Clara lives with her comatose husband Bob and their children on the Platte, near Ogalalla, Nebraska. She’s a great example of the strong American frontier women, pioneers who lived under the toughest circumstances, buried children and stood by their men, while being their own person as well.
      2 – Asher Lev, the young Jewish painter in Chaim Potok’s novel My Name is Asher Lev. Asher Lev refuses to let his artistic talent go unexplored and as important even, unrecognized. I appreciate the difficult path he has chosen.
      3 – Sarah P. Worth, voice in John Updike’s S. I’ve been in similar situations as Sarah and I think we would have great fun schmoozing together. Also would like to hear what she thinks of Updike taking on the project to tell a woman’s story. If there’s anything she would like to change or add.
      4 – Kinsey Millhone, the sleuth in Sue Grafton’s alphabet mystery series. Just love her and want to sit her next to number 5 whom I think she must admire as much as I do. And perhaps she also feels as sorry for him as I, and will amuse him. Not completely sure about the latter, since we’re talking Old World Male and California Wild Card. But you never know and opposites do attract. Just really, really want to make up for all the hardship caused by that big B of wife of his.
      5 - George Smiley, the middle aged spy I’ve come to adore reading John Le Carre‘s oeuvre.

      Which characters would you choose? 
      Care to share in a comment and as a post on your own blog?

      Kim Koning introduced me to the Facebook Word Warriors. The dedication of this group's members to NaNoWriMo helped me finish the first draft of my novel Forgiveness last November. Kim set out to interview members of the group and I'm thankful for her attention and inquisitive questions. Kim's most recent publication is the short story A Ring of Fire which you can find in the anthology Tales for Canterbury.

      The above interview section was previously published on May 11, 2011 in Dragonfly Scrolls.

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Privilege of Remembering Baby

      The headline reads: Mother Sues Hospital over Photos Dead Son.
      According to News5 at WTWLdotcom "someone" sent Heather Werth a photo album with pictures of her prematurely born son who died at sixteen weeks. The young mother is suing the hospital over Abuse of a Corpse. The female anchor person on News5 asked her colleague, "Why did she (the mother) keep the pictures if they were so upsetting to her?"

      The answer could give ammunition to the hospital's lawyer and those who recommend the making of pictures after a baby has died. They'll say: "She may not want them now, but she'll be happy she has them later.

      To which I would say, that doesn't matter. What matters is the way the album was delivered, especially since Heather Werth told the hospital staff she didn't want them to take the pictures.

      I can very well imagine Werth's shock opening the album and seeing pictures of her baby dressed up and modeled in different poses.

      We have two Polaroid® pictures taken of Ariane Eira by Margreet the delivery nurse. Anneke our delivery coach took a few photographs of us holding our sweet little girl. Those pictures are precious and we keep them in a special place. But we can choose when to see them. And let me tell you, there have been times where looking at them was unbearable. 

      To send an album in the mail the way the hospital did defeats the purpose of memorial photography. There's no solace in receiving such a present.

      To repeatedly re-experience a traumatic delivery is not at all uncommon. Penny Simkin founder of DONA likened this to PTSD. This is a "natural" occurrence. To have the imagery pushed upon you may trigger episodes that may been tapering off. In Heather Werth's case to wake up and go to bed "seeing" the pictures of her dead son in her mind may not be the same as PTSD linked to a traumatic delivery, the effect is the same.

      Incidentally Tracey Hill-Bensalem told me the other day that she wrote about her research for a story in which a baby is stillborn. She Google-ed "what does a stillborn child look like?" looked at pages upon pages, and was touched by the sadness of it all. In response to her post I wrote how I (and I'll add here like to) remember our little girl.

      Our Ariane Eira's eyes were closed, her lips burgundy rose petals dropped on pale smooth skin, she had the tiniest blond curls as if set around sprigs. Her limbs, fingers and toes were long, like her daddy's, her nails mother of pearl. No peep, no breath, still sheer perfection.

      For some reason suing is the M.O. in America to get attention for unwanted practices, I don't know if that's the way to go when doing so may only prolong the suffering, but I do think a reprimand at the address of the hospital is in place, if only to make clear not everyone wants the same.

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Monday, May 23, 2011

      New Zealand Authors Tell Canterbury Tales of Hope and Aid

      Remember the natural disaster that hit  Christchurch, New Zealand?
      Writers performed creative acts of healing...
      RJ Astruc, Philippa Ballantine, Jesse Bullington, Anna Caro, Cat Connor, Brenda Cooper, Debbie Cowens, Matt Cowens, Merrilee Faber, AJ Fitzwater, Janis Freegard, Neil Gaiman, Cassie Hart, A.M. Harte, Karen Healey, Leigh K. Hunt, Lynne Jamneck, Patty Jansen, Gwyneth Jones, Tim Jones, Kim Koning, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe, Kate Mahony, Tina Makereti, Juliet Marillier, Angel Leigh McCoy, Linda Niccol, Ripley Patton, Simon Petrie, Grant Stone, Jeff Vandermeer, Mary Victoria and Sean Williams.

      They sign for:
      Tales for Canterbury Blog button
      Click on the tree to the left to learn more.

      The short story anthology Tales for Canterbury is loosely themed around survival, hope and the future ...

      All profits of this anthology will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.

      Tuesday, May 17, 2011

      Cristos Tsiolkas's Greek Drama Down Under

      The SlapThe Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

      My rating: 5 of 5 stars

      Someone I talked to at the library (a librarian in training) was surprised to hear I loved this book. She said she didn't like the characters, the things they thought and did. I didn't like them that much myself, jerks and traitors, old and young chauvinists, victimized women and whining children... But my goodness some of them are sexy!
      Cristos Tsiolkas is without a doubt the master of portraying the flawed persona, and he shows no fear to admit that all these folks are his brain children. Which of course does not mean he thinks as they do. Authors are too often burdened with responsibility of their character's points of view, the author is not equal to the narrators! Let that be clear!

      Using the word persona, with its Greek origin, is appropriate when discussion the work of a Greek Australian author who writes about a community of immigrants from Hellas. 

      Aren't we all actors on a stage, either created or adopted? The only character I really felt for was a teenaged boy who questions his sexual orientation, and struggles to find his own place on the stage of life. Other than him, I recognized most all of the people —for yes that's what they are, real people— in Tsiolkas's drama. Am I not, aren't we all a combination of the good and the bad and the ugly, combined with love and affection, covered up with a smile or grunt. What is hiding behind the mask? That's what it's all about.

      As a writer with a background in the theater I enjoyed thoroughly how Tsiolkas lets the chorus of his drama tell the story, one by one. Each and every one relating the events in deep point of view, which is no small feat.

      Take that to the bank Christos Tsiolkas!

      View all my reviews

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Sunday, May 01, 2011

      ScriptFrenzy Fuels Passion for Scenario Writing

      If there was any doubt in your mind that writing a film script in less than one month may be likened to climbing the Mount Everest, check out the stats below. That my friends is a steep incline if I ever saw one. The Stairmaster® at my gym has nothing on that baby! Except for the exercise manufacturer's motto: Real Work Real Results

      Don't think I didn't do nothing the first 19 days. I was thinking about another writing project, a manuscript I whipped out during the NaNoWriMo of 2010, that I wanted to use as inspiration for the film script. On April 1st I published a post on FaceBook and on Twitter, stating:
      My screenplay "Counterfeit" has been optioned still very hush-hush. Can see both Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller as MC, oh boy I could SCREAM!
      That first day of ScriptFrenzy I wrote 3 pages. Just writing the scenes made me want to finish reading through the draft of the "Forgiveness" manuscript for more useful sections. On April 19 I picked up the screenplay where I left off. In order to finish on April 30th I had to write at least 10 pages per day. Did I? No, not right away, but the closer the peak came in sight, the faster I typed. 
      How thankful I was to remember Lia Keyes' tip during the NaNoWriMo sprint: "Don't delete, everything you type adds up for your word count." How hard it is to control the urge to delete when you're an incorrigible editor though!
       Using the Forgiveness WIP I gained insight in my manuscript's characters' motivation and actions. Alongside that I discovered how much "back story" and character make-up is present in the monologues written during NaNoWriMo. Plus, I returned to an old lover, scenario writing. All in all a fantastic experience. Onward and upward, forward. There's some tweaking to be done, another 20 or so pages to be written, but then my friends, I'll have the 120 standard for a feature film.  
      Many thanks to the office of LETTERS AND LIGHT (and Dawn the Script Frenzy Municipal Liaison for Seattle) for support and inspiration!
      Do you switch between genres or formats? If so, how does one influence the other?

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Tuesday, April 26, 2011

      Living Here and Now - Writing about the Past

      Traveling, in time, in space, in your mind.

      Lino-cut Tibetan Tiger Rug
      Just before Chinese New Year I wrote a guest post for  writing-artist Rose Deniz's blog. Back in Turkey, after visiting her Midwest childhood home, Rose wrote about jet lag and living in present tense. Reading her post today I uncovered thoughts about my own sentiments in regards to living in the present while writing primarily about the past.

      Some find an artist or writer's preoccupation with the past disconcerting. "You lose out on the present, if you think that much of what has been," they say.

      There's no loss, only gain, I argue. Writing about things that may have happened in the past, making up details of my parents' romance, getting to know relatives I never knew; bringing to life grandmothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, their friends and even pets, using my own experience in the here and now, I'm constantly mixing my present tense life with what's remained behind, both in time and location.

      That's the big picture.

      In "Forgiveness" the novel, suitcases play an important role
      Traveling to me always means my spirit either zips ahead of my physical being, part of me gone while I'm still saying goodbye to my present home and friends or lags behind. Returning from the old country, I need about three months to feel I'm really back. I cherish the mementos I carry back with me, newspapers and magazines in my native language, the books to be saved for last or later, so I can savor the flavor, aroma, and sounds of nostalgia.

      What I like best about jet lag is being awake in the small hours, going to all-night diners, prolonging the feeling of being a traveler, on my way back or from a new or old place, my spirit dancing, free and unencumbered, testing me, treating me to that —in between time— where everyday routine is the element that's foreign, alien —not me.

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Monday, April 25, 2011

      Stylish to the Tee

      The other day debragirlwithpen asked on Twitter "what do feminist toddlers wear ?" I have to admit, I didn't click on the accompanying link (I might have lost myself in Deborah Siegel's blog The Pink & Blue Diaries, and I'm in ScriptFrenzy mode) but responded off the cuff with: black for both boys and girls. This may or may not account for the fact that I received the classy white on black Stylish Blogger Award. As a matter of fact, the award was issued earlier, but I missed the message since, yes, indeed, I've got my head in characters, scenes, dialogue, action etc.
      Last week I was tickled pink for having been called a Homo Universalis and Versatile, or at least I was, in regards to my blog.
      Today I'm touched by the magic wand that makes me belong to a crew of bloggers that operates on yet another level.
      These days I'm running with a stylish pack.
      For someone who sits alone most every day in her writer's den in her homebody's garb, someone who has had to decide whether Skype-ing —and be seen— is really such a good thing, this is big. To dress for work, or not is the question.
      Yet, what I want to stress is that style my friends, is in our writing, our presentation of posts, our subjects and approach.
      Style is not just about what can be seen ...
      Style isn't about color, style isn't black & white, or pink & blue, style is what you make your own with distinction.

      So it is with great pleasure that I accept the The Stylish Blogger Award from my Word Warrior friend TG Ayer and with equal pleasure that I pass it on to other writers who approach their place in the blogosphere with a certain flair and distinction. 
      ♡Look them up, take in what they share and pass it on!

      Judy Shintani- Kitsune
      Sezin Koehler - Zuzu's Petals
      Jocelyn  Eikenburg - Speaking of China
      E.Victoria Flynn - Penny Jars

      As for black & white garb for babies, Deborah noted that would be very N.Y.

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Sunday, April 17, 2011

      Homo Universalis = Versatile Blogger

      ♡I'm tickled pink!
      My global community rocks and the members of this worldwide web indisputably add to the quality of my life! Today, on a cold, damp April Sunday, Peter-Paul de Baar in the Netherlands and Kim Koning on the other side of the world in New Zealand managed to warm my heart and soul.

      Peter-Paul, editor in chief of my fave Dutch publication Ons Amsterdam, said I am a Homo Universalis as he recommended my new Page on Facebook. I've been called a polymath by the brothers Youtz, so the feeling one gets being called names is not new, it keeps a person humble.

      Kim, Word Warrior par excellence and mistress of the Dragon Fly Scrolls (check out and follow her blog!) surprised me with the Versatile Blogger Award. To receive this award at a time when I regularly wonder about the catch-all nature of this here Hope Filled Jars is most rewarding!

      It used to be writers had to get their work published in Literary magazines. Seeing your name in print not just a thrill for you, but proof to the publisher that another editor had already deemed your work good enough to pass their scrutiny, meaning you'd passed the first firewall.

      These days writers have to have author pages on platforms such as Facebook and GoodReads, they have to tweet and they have to be bloggers. I am and do all of the above. The material I post on Hope Filled Jars is as varied as the interests of a generalist.
      To receive a blogging award and accolades for exactly those reasons, is a tremendous thrill! 
      In order to receive The Versatile Blogger Award the recipient —that's me— has to agree to share 7 things that the reader —that's you— doesn't know yet.
       That's not that easy considering I've put my whole lifestory on my Website, but here goes:

      1. All the toys I played with as a child were antiques.
      2. Tights that are to short in the crotch make me have an instant bad temper tantrum.
      3. Starting with Kindergarten I've not finished any school, I'm a true autodidact.
      4. For a while I was a tasteless chef.
      5. I have very sharp ears, but not pointed, deduction, I'm not an elf.
      6. Queen Beatrix told me that my sets and costumes for "The Blacks" were most inventive. 
      7. My favorite times to sleep: a few hours in the afternoon and a few between midnight and sunrise.

      ♡Thank you to Kim for surprising me with the award and ♡to P-P for accolades! I'm aglow!

      Am passing on the ♥Love♥ to some of the Versatile Bloggers that I follow:

      1. Julie Jeffs - Beginning Life at 50
      3. Kathryn Brown - Crystal Jigsaw
      4. Elizabeth Munroz - Moon Rose
      5. Rose Deniz - Love Rose

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

      Writers Keep on Writing

      New routine after waking up: 
      Hold on to those brilliant early morning thoughts, jot them down, make tea, go to writer's den. Open a Word document and start working. Do NoT oPen EmAil oR bRowSe oN tHe iNterneT! 

      In reply to my rant the other day, Anastasia Ashman posted a question. My answer: Per definition the road has been more important to me than the destination. And that's exactly why I need to focus on getting my book(s) finished. Been humming this homesick blues on my own long enough. Time to share my discoveries!

      Talking about the things we do in life my friend Joost Elffers said a while back: "We build a house of cards ..."
      "And then what, we build another, and another?" I asked, the image of a colorful, mind boggling building constructed out of all of Joost's published books and cards on my mind. He laughed out loud. "No," he said, "then we die."

      There's a certain urgency that sets in when one turns 50.

      Folks who have been putting off what they wanted to do until later, realize there's no time like the present. Those who've been enjoying their path and see no need to take another direction, such as yours truly, figure it's time to tidy up, focus on finishing what's been started a long time ago.

      To you regular visitors, expect the illustration I am a Tree to appear again on this blog, but next time with blossoms, and the time after that the fruit should be ripe, ready to pick. 

      You can bet your boots(*) on that one!

      (*) Love listening to the London Homesick Blues by Gary P.Nunn, follow the link for a fun version with him and Jerry Jeff Walker. What's your fave music to listen to while at work?

      This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License