Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maximum Results

I have never much liked the idea of interval training. Once I get going, I never like to stop. Mostly for fear that once I stop I won’t get started again.

But now that I am at the ‘age’ where what worked for me in terms of exercise doesn’t seem to be the doing the trick as well anymore, it was suggested to me by one well versed in the subject of fitness that I should consider interval training, if indeed I wanted maximum results.

I am one of those women who is determined to fight the aging process every step of the way, so I decided to give it a try.

The first day of experimentation I added brief periods of sprints in between my normal fast walk. Always the researcher I noticed that the fast walking seemed easier after a sprint. And that the fast walk then felt like a rest. By the time I was done, I felt like I had a much better workout than usual. Perhaps there was something to this.

When I was done and soaking in the beauty that is early morning in Central Park in the spring,
the sun rising behind the buildings on the East Side, the forsythia and dogwood blooming in a sea of yellow, pink and white fringed with the young green grass, I got it. My aha!

Reinvention is a lot like interval training. I have to crank everything into high gear to really get the heart rate up and then break back into a steadier easier to breathe in pace for a while. An occasional break won’t hurt either. It’s the fits and starts that really get me were I need to go. And sometimes thinking there is only one way to get it done, the one way that always worked in the past, may not be the way that gets things moving forward. At least not if I'm after maximum results .

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Solar Ecstasy

My friend and writing cohort, Naomi Rosenblatt has just opened this new showing of digital art at the SB Digital Gallery at 125 East 4th Street. It will be on display through May 13.
This is a really impressive expression of art meeting technology, plus there are great gift ideas for Mother's Day! It is well worth the trip to the Lower East Side!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Alchemy of Wandering

Yesterday I was wandering where I was not supposed to be. In Henri Bendel. No longer shopping for sport I have found the easiest way to keep temptation at bay is to stay out of the stores completely in much the way a heavy smoker goes cold turkey to get things under control. But I needed some makeup and while I might have cut back on the number of manicures I get these days, I have not yet resorted to making those purchases in Duane Reade.

If you know Bendel’s, makeup is pretty much confined to the first floor which doesn’t explain how I managed to get to the third. Except to say, once in the store, I threw caution to the wind. It is after all Spring and I felt the need to meander, just to see what was new for the season. I could look. I could even touch if I so desired. I didn’t have to go home with anything.

I stumbled upon an exhibit that opened this past Saturday on Living Perfume. Having always harbored a fascination with fragrance, even having a character in the works for another novel stashed away that has a thing for the mystery of scent, I was intrigued.

Living Perfume, I discovered is an exhibit of the natural alchemy of Mandy Aftel. A major distinction between this and other perfume is the use of natural ingredients. While I am never sure if I can taste the difference between an organic orange and one shot up with chemicals, there was no doubt that my nose distinguished a marked difference in the comparison of the natural, more inviting essence to the harsher, synthetic one.

If you don’t believe me, I invite you to take the guided tour I was offered by the very knowledgeable and passionate young woman who was representing the Aftelier brand and smell for yourself. The exhibit is open through May 11.

But my point today is about more than an interesting, well designed exhibit. It is about what the Universe seems to be pulling me to again and again. Once more I found myself listening to the story of a woman who had a passion and from that created a vibrant and thriving business. Mandy Aftel who sees herself as entrusted with a sacred art, built a business on a mixture of natural essences and centuries old methodology.

As if that was not enough, it turns out this was also another wink as to how interconnected we all are to each other. I learned later that the design of the interactive event was led by Brandimage-Desgrippes & Laga which just happens to be run by an old friend of mine I had not spoken with in a while.

What I thought was yesterday’s rendezvous with temptation turned out to be the Universe reminding me to continue to pursue my own passions and trust the rest will come.

I left Bendel’s with my Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, a brochure on the exhibit and a promise to be back. I also left learning something about me and my sport shopping. Perhaps I can reinvent that a bit too. I don’t have to deny myself the indulgence of wandering and letting my senses take it all in. But I also don’t have to open my wallet immediately. I can prolong the experience and when I am ready to splurge on a Mandy Aftel scent I can and will go back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ninth Month

I was thinking this morning how long it had been since I left the Corporate world and counted up almost nine full months. NINE MONTHS. Alot can happen in nine months. Women give birth to babies in that period of time.

So when people ask me what is going on, I understand that they think something really big should be birthed already. We are a society of instant gratification and have trouble understanding when things take time.

And yes, like them, I feel a little antsy this week. I have to remind myself of what I have done already. That one book is completed and in the hands of my capable agent , a second is better than one third done, and of course there is this blog, which according to today's Wall Street Journal just might make me some money one day.

But you know what happens in the ninth month. Everyone's hormones get a little kooky, not just the birth mother. Everyone gets impatient, forgetting that there is a reason for the nine months. Gestation. Acclimating to what is about to happen. Preparation. There is a reason things take time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Me and Hemingway

There is a great blurb in Sunday's New York Times that reports that people's confidence that they will retire comfortably has a hit a new low. Like Hemingway who was quoted as saying, "Retirement is the ugliest word in the language" I have always disliked the word retirement.

I hear retirement and I hear the end. For me it has implied sitting on a shelf gathering dust. When they retire a baseball player's number it is because it is never to be used again.

Doesn't sound like much fun to me. Which is good I feel that way. Given the state of my investments, if I did aspire to retire in the way we have defined it in our society, it would be somewhere around the age of ninety.

That's why I like the word reinvention. Reinvention implies new beginnings, creation, stimulation, a new path.

I'm with Hemingway. Retirement is an ugly word.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Silent Reading

It's official. I am now on Twitter. I don't quite know what to do with it yet but it got me thinking about all the things there are to read now. Between my ever growing list of blogs, newsletter updates, Facebook, Linkedin, The New York Times(I confess. I like that best when I can feel the newsprint on my hands) and now, Twitter, there is alot to distract me.

Of course, I am a reader. I always have been. I am one of those people who believes information is power and the best way to get that is by reading. If you can read, you can do anything.

So I like having lots to read.

But what about that old concept of reading with no purpose and no interaction. Just reading for the sake of reading. I think that was the idea behind silent reading when you were in a kid in school.

Remember that designated time of the day when everyone shut everything off and just read for twenty minutes. Not for work or for necessity, or to respond to an email or a blog, but just for fun. Everyone. Students, teachers, the principal’s secretary.

Twenty minutes of uninterrupted silence.

I wonder what would happen if we worked silent reading into the economic stimulus plan. What if for even fifteen minutes every day, the country just paused and got quiet with something to read that was not an email, text message or twitter and required no outside interaction. What if we all just sat with our favorite section of the paper, or that article in the magazine you get every month but barely have time to scan, or here’s a stretch, the novel that you just have not been able to get to. Just sat and read and learned something. No multi-tasking allowed.

The only sound would be that of pages turning.

I always heard a lot in the quiet of that silent reading time. Ideas being hatched. Dreams created. Possibilities being sketched out. A new perspective opened. It was that great pause that refreshes, except no one was drinking a Coca Cola.

I wonder what would happen if that was written that into the plan. How much good might be created?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reinvention Is All The Rage

Pronunciation: \ˌrē-ən-ˈvent\
Function: transitive verb
Date: 1686
1 : to make as if for the first time something already invented 2 : to remake or redo completely 3 : to bring into use again
re·in·ven·tion \-ˈven(t)-shən\ noun

This is the definition according to Merriam-Webster. As it turns out, while the concept of reinvention, especially in regard to the workplace, is a constant topic these days, the word has been around for a long time.

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that he was reinventing himself, “yet again.” And Tuesday at the 85 Broads Power Breakfast the speaker, Courtney B.Banks, CEO of NSAWW, canvassed the attendees prior to her talk to get a temperature on the room. Turns out the recurring theme in her conversations was that word again, reinvention.

I think reinvention is much like a new workout at the gym. You think you are in shape until you try a new routine that requires some different muscles, ones that hurt a bit from under use. You start to get that maybe you have not been pushing yourself to the next level as much as you thought. And then as you get more practice, more into the groove of the new routine, the workout gets easier and you start to see and feel the results the change brought. You find you are breathing easier as a result.

I’m starting to see and feel the change.

Like Spring, reinvention is in the air. It is all the rage. What are you reinventing?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lessons From Valentino

As you know if you follow this blog, my musings can run the gamut from a discussion of a book as powerful and thought provoking as The Blue Sweater to my affection for Dancing with the Stars. So it will not surprise you that yesterday I went to see the feature length documentary, Valentino, the Last Emperor.
For those not up on their fashion, the “Emperor” being referred to is Valentino Clemente Ludonco Garavani, better known simply as Valentino, legendary fashion designer.

Much of what I expected I got, a visually captivating retrospective of the work of a man who is arguably the last of the great haute couture designers.

The term ‘haute couture’ is literally French for ‘high sewing’. And if you were ever wondering what the fuss about this type of fashion is compared with ready to wear, you need only see the movie. The painstaking time and attention to hand sewing every sequin and thread of these custom fitted creations is truly an art form.

I was surprised by a few things. One was how utterly charming and funny Valentino is. But even more so, I was surprised that there was yet another message in this ode to a brilliant artist straight from the Universe about what true passion can produce.

The multi million dollar empire that Valentino created with his partner Giancarlo Giammetti was born out of two things. One was Valentino’s passion and talent for creating beautiful dresses for women. The second was Giammetti’s entrepreneurial genius. At one point in the film Giammetti speaks of the simple business plan they began with, selling dresses women wanted to wear.

As you watch you see how the success of a combination of passion, talent and thinking out of the box entrepreneurial smarts had to adapt as the business side of fashion changed and that now recurring theme emerged, that of business based on the bottom line first and all else second.

Even if fashion is not your thing you cannot help but be struck by the artisan of what Valentino’s world was. The attention to detail, the care, the desire to create something that could captivate even those who might never wear a Valentino original, but would search the racks for the dress that was copied from it. From that extraordinary talent an entrepreneurial success was created, so much so that one of those big corporations wanted to buy it. And thus a business whose once paramount concern was with creating great design became more concerned with a great stock price.

I left the theater a little sad wondering what will happen to the iconic brand now that Valentino is retired, if another can duplicate his enthusiasm and zeal in today's cost cutting environment. But mostly I was inspired and reminded of what a great passion and a willingness to think differently can produce if one is willing to go for it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My First Interview as a Writer

As long as we are on the subject of interconnectedness, I am starting to get emails and requests from individuals I might not have ever encountered if I did not have this blog. Such is the age of technology.

For instance, last week I got an invitation from a site called WhoHub for an interview. I decided not to belabor wondering how many others got the same invitation. The site looked pretty interesting and sophisticated so but I made that little leap of cyberspace faith and decided to play and do the interview. After all this is good practice for me standing in that space of being a Writer.

You can read the interview below or link through to Who Hub.

Joanne Tombrakos [onewomanseye]

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I attribute my love of reading to my mother. Before my brother was born, we moved to New Jersey for awhile. She did not have any friends nearby and there were no kids in the neighborhood. We only had each other for company until my father came home from work. So every day, around 3 in the afternoon she would read to me from this giant book of poems and fairy tales. I was mesmerized with the written word from that time on. That was how I learned to read. I still have the book, worn as it is, the binding held on with masking tape. I always loved to write, my first story published in our public school yearbook when I was in the first grade. But I was never serious about it, very fearful of sharing until about seven years ago when I found this amazing writing group. They were really the first people I shared my stories with.

What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I am not sure there is one favorite genre, except to say I am most drawn to stories centering around women and that involve generations of families. That certainly plays out in my first novel, Forty Days.
I have a blog that tells more. http://onewomanseye.blogspot.com

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
When I was still working my day job in Corporate America my process was erratic. I used to say I was a binge writer, which most will tell you is not the way to go about writing, that consistency and daily practice is critical. But at that time it was the only way I could fit it in. And it worked.

Now that I am writing full time I try and sit down every day to get something out, no matter how good or bad. But I do find as I work on my second novel, that there is still something of that binge writing still going on. I might think for days about where I want to go next, sit down and get nothing much down and then suddenly it comes to me. I tend to write in my head first and then on paper.

What type of reading inspires you to write?
Almost anything, from a fictional novel to an article in the paper. While it is not reading, sometimes watching a good movie or TV drama or even a not so good one will inspire me to get my story out.

What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
For me it starts with a good character. If you can create a character that is interesting and complex and that you really like being with, the rest of the story will flow.

What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I prefer third person. If I try to write in first person, it is usually too hard for me to fictionalize. Although I am experimenting with the idea.

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
The character has to have flaws, real flaws, the kind we can all recognize in ourselves and in each other. Sonia Pilcer, who is the one that got me committed to my writing, does this exercise in her classes, where you first write a monologue of a character. Then you start with little stories, having that character do different things, have an argument, lose something. It really helps to get to know who you are writing about. It was through that series of exercises that I created the character of Elena Poulous in my first novel.

Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Deep down ? Really? I write for me.

Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
I was always able to express myself better writing than verbally, so I suppose yes, in that sense it is therapeutic. I think most writers would tell you that no matter what they are writing, however fictional it might be, they are bringing some of their own personal experience into it.

Does reader feed-back help you?
Absolutely ! I think sometimes we look at our own stories so much, we don't see something obvious. That could be something that is not working or something someone got that you had not even intended.

Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
My amazing writing group I spoke of before sees it all. And my agent.

Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I think we have different voices. My blog which is me speaking on reinventing life after Corporate America is one voice. That voice is much different than the one in Forty Days. And different still, than the voice in the one I am writing now, Seduced by Corporate America. I think what is important is that once you find the voice for a particular work, you stick with it, that it is clear and consistent and strong.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I am working on discipline.

What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I like quiet, with the exception of my little fountain. I like the sound of the water. And a good chair.

Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I used to only be able to write by hand and then transcribe into the computer. Somewhere along the line something changed and I can now write directly into the computer. I do keep a notebook to jot down thoughts and ideas. The problem there is my handwriting has gotten so bad, sometimes I can't even understand it. I will print out to edit.

What are you working on now?
The title of this is Seduced by Corporate America. It is a fictional tale of a woman who set out to change the world and found herself seduced into the corporate world in the Reagan eighties. The story will take her into the present as she discovers the only thing she had really changed was herself.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Take a look at them! There is probably more than one good idea in there that just needs some polishing!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Blue Sweater

Have you heard the story of The Blue Sweater yet? This is how it goes. The author of the memoir, Jacqueline Novogratz has this blue sweater as a kid. You know, one of those favorite childhood possessions that no matter how hard anyone tries, no one can convince you to part with. Eventually, circumstances are such that it winds up in the Goodwill pile. (You’ll have to read the whole book to find that part out.) Fast forward eleven years and Jacqueline is in Africa for the first time and she spots the same sweater, her sweater on the back of a young boy. It is one of those defining moments in one’s life that she recognizes as a giant blue sign that she is where she should be and on her right path.

As the book unfolds, you learn the symbolism of that sweater is much more. It is just one example of what she continues to illustrate throughout, that we are all interconnected in this world, no matter how close or how far away. Our actions and non actions affect each other and affect the planet, sometimes in ways we might never know.

How I got to read this book is another example of this interconnectness. I responded to a Seth Godin blog on February 14 soliciting book reviewers.

I had never written a book review before and wasn’t even sure what the subject matter of
The Blue Sweater was. But I am a big fan of Seth Godin and I was certain whatever it was it would be well worth my time. Besides I am a writer. I like to read and support what is getting published. It is good karma.

The Blue Sweater at times reads like a transporting novel. Jacqueline Novogratz’ detailed and colorful descriptions of her travels to Africa, India and the Mississippi Delta brings to life a vivid picture of the beauty of the surroundings contrasting sharply with extreme poverty and crude living and working conditions of the people she encounters. There is that same stark divide between her own nuts and bolts business approach and the way she is moved and touched by all those she encounters. Jacqueline is that rare individual who does not just speak of wanting to make a difference in this world, but does. She introduces us all to a new way of looking at philanthropy in applying the rules of good business to show the poor how to better themselves.

As I read I wasn’t always sure exactly why my blog was one of the ones chosen to help spread her word. Then I got it. Jacqueline left a career in corporate banking to do something that touched her soul. She is a living, breathing example that there is life after Corporate America and she suggests one in which an understanding of business can be fundamental to creating systems for change. The Acumen Fund of which she is a founder and CEO is an example of that.

I speak to individuals everyday who either by choice or downsizing now find themselves standing outside the corporate walls. There is a consensus among them that the heart has gone out of that environment. And in its place greed.

What Jacqueline Novogratz suggests in The Blue Sweater is that perhaps there is a way to put the heart back in, that we can use the discipline and rigor of good business to create fundamental change and bridge the ever growing gap between the wealthy and the very poor. We are reminded that at one point, if not in our own lives, then in the lives of our ancestors, we were all once poor and each of us has a right for the opportunity to rise above that.

This is an important book, one everyone should read, especially now at this very critical juncture in the world. I have one copy and one of you will get it. Whoever it is, make sure you pass it on when you are done. In this interconnected world, a blog post shared, a book passed on is just one way of spreading the word and working to make a difference. Because, after all, like The Blue Sweater, you just never know where it will wind up.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Real Job

I don’t know how many times in these last months I have been asked if I was going to get a job, a real job that is.

I am struck by a few things. The first is using the adjective ‘real’ before ‘job’. Apparently in some dictionaries writing is not considered to be one. A job is only a job if I have to leave the house in the morning and stay away all day. A job is only a job if someone is directing me as to what my responsibilities are as opposed to me directing me. A job is only a job if a paycheck arrives at the appointed time every week or every other week. And of course, a job is only a job if it creates some sort of displeasure. And I apparently appear too happy for writing to be a job.

It has made me wonder if I have not been making myself clear that I am divorcing myself from Corporate life, that I am on a journey of reinvention, that I want to earn my living as a writer. And if I am not clear with them, then is the Universe hearing me correctly? Because the truth is I am not so concerned with them not getting it, but the Universe, that is a different story. I want to be sure the Universe hears me loud and crystal clear.

This past Sunday I got a big wink that something had shifted. A portion of my Big Fat extended Greek Family was gathered for a memorial service for one of my mother’s cousins. These events usually include a couple of hours in church followed by an afternoon of eating.

I had braced myself ahead of time, that I would be getting those when are you going to get a job questions. While my mother gets I am serious, I wasn’t so sure about everyone else. This place of reinvention can be a fragile one and I was not interested that day in being thrown off course. I was ready to explain that I was a writer and that pursuing my writing was a lot like a start up business, and it would take some time.

So when my eighty nine year old Uncle embraced me with a big smile and said he heard I was writer now, I was caught off guard. And when he wanted to know more, when had I started, when did I discover this is what I wanted to do, what was I writing about, I knew something big had shifted. He did not have that look of worry on his face I was anticipating, but instead one of love and support and happiness for me.

My uncle is a thinker, a highly intellectual, self taught man who likes to contemplate the stars. When the weather is on his side, he still plays golf every day in Prospect Park. He also grew up in the Great Depression and like all those I have known in my life who experienced that, the worry and fear around money never really leaves them.

But he didn’t share with me his worry, only his happiness and support. And so did everyone else. I found myself handing out my cards with an invitation to read my blog and a promise to let everyone know when Forty Days is published. That Corporate career was fading further away, nothing more than material for my next novel.

I can’t help but wonder if my uncle’s reaction was merely a reflection of me. That he saw me as I now see me, with a real job, as a writer.