Monday, March 21, 2011

Not One Star * A Galaxy


Recently I became a more active member on GoodReads
This would be a good way to connect with readers, I learned from Lia Keyes' blog post "Writers: How to Connect with Readers on GoodReads". Lia is the founder of the NaNoWriMo Word Warrior, a FaceBook group I joined last November and let me tell you, the lady knows her stuff. Cool, I thought, that should be helpful when you sell "Forgiveness" (yep, there's another book in the works).

I signed up and applied for an author's page 
That done it turned out I already had an account going back to 2007 with quite a few "read books" on my list, but not one friend —I was a lot more shy regarding Online "friends" in 2007 than I am these days. No problem, the good folks at GoodReads solved the problem. I lost my entered titles, but I did get to keep my FB and Word Warrior friends whom I connected with on GoodReads.

So far, so good 
That is, until my one and only book, my self published baby popped up with a star. With one star, that is. Let me tell you, that's not a happy moment for a writer. One * on GoodReads while I've got 4+ on How the hell did that happen? Why would this one reader rate my book so poorly? Did she not see we are sisters in our loss? Well, no, clearly not and it is understandable why a young religious woman with a lot of kids wouldn't care for a book by someone who's life and lifestyle is so far removed from her own reality.

As an artist I learned early on that taste is subjective
Not everyone, sometimes nobody, will always like what you create. The same is of course true for a writer. There's a lesson to be learned from this: artists and writers have to grow thick skin.

My hurt self says: "But this was my baby! And what's more, I wanted to help other mothers, make them see..."
My reasonable self responds: "There you go, we can't make people see what they don't want to see, or can't see. If they don't relate, they don't relate. 

All we can do as artists and writers is to be true, stick our heads out, hope for the best, duck in time; and yes, grow thick skin.

Creative Acts of Healing: After a Baby DiesCreative Acts of Healing: After a Baby Dies by Judith van Praag

Well, what can I say? That I've read this book countless times; that I find the characters believable and the story sad beyond words? Truth is, I've lived the story. The title is blunt, in your face, not a book you take to a dinner party to give to the hostess to thank her for a nice evening. Like the experience implied in the title this is not a book you want to push on anybody, or wish for anyone to need. Still, if you know of people who have suffered a similar loss as the author this book like others in its genre may bring solace, or rather, I know it has.

Oh, and by the way Dr. Nassim Assefi added this title to the recommended reading list in her novel Aria. Dr. Gayle Peterson wrote: "...a beautiful story of loss, love and healing."

Thanks to my reader-friends this title has collected more stars, so thankful to know readers can have a writer's back!

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

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sustainism As Natural as Elephant Dung and Dutch Apple Pie

The year was 1987, my new friend and possible future business associate Zia and I were waiting in a first class lounge at Schiphol airport for the boarding time of her flight back to Bombay to be announced. She recapped the things we had done in the week that had passed and presented me with a gift to thank me for my assistance with her business venture in the Netherlands.

The folder she handed me was made of rough, handmade heavyweight paper decorated with white line drawings that depicted villagers dancing in a circle at a life cycle ceremony; the folder held three paintings of similar drawings on a dark brown background on much smoother paper.

Zia told me the artists originally made paper of elephant dung and that they used rice paste to draw images on a painted background colored rusty brown with a natural pigment (or paint made from the same resource). Since the production of the paper was laborious (and the ingredients questionable to potential buyers) Zia had the artists paint on more easily obtained paper which allowed the artists to create more sheets, sell more art and thus make more money.

The prospects Zia painted at this last meeting about me getting my designs produced in India, combined with strong Dutch coffee, made me jittery and in my excitement I dropped a wallop of whipped cream from my apple pie onto the folder. Without thinking, I swiped the cream up with my finger and stuck it in my mouth. 

Zia's hand flew to her lips, she seemed in shock.
"What's the matter?" I said.
"The folder..." she nodded at the port folio on the coffee table.
"I don't think it's going to leave a spot," embarrassed by my clumsiness I used my napkin to rub the rough paper. "See, it doesn't show at all!"
"That's not it, it's, it's..."
Why was she so concerned?
"The folder's material is made of elephant dung, remember?"
Time for me to bring my hand to my lips.

Today there are no worries about the resources, on the contrary, in 2008 the makers of the elephant dung paper received a The Green Business Award for their sustainable project.

The Times They Are A-Changing, but what remains true through the times: one person's trash is another person's treasure.

There must be more stories about straw spun to gold and sh.t turned into a sustainable business. What's yours?

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