Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One Man's Quest For Power - Wind Power

Baltimore resident, David Powers, got tired of hearing the industrial hum of his generator. It interfered with the camping experience he wanted to create for his family. Listening to that drone drown out the sounds of nature finally got to him and he began tinkering with using a small wind turbine to produce the power needed for his pop-up camper.

First he set up a turbine in his backyard, which didn't thrill his neighbors. The 28 foot tower and turbine cost about $80, including the motor and rotor he bought on eBay. The wind supplied enough energy to power the campers lights, refrigerator, oven fan and water pump. He had success.

On his next trip to their favorite campsite at Assateague State Park in Maryland. The constant breeze on the island spun the turbine and created enough energy to power up the camper's two 13.8 volt batteries. Next time, Powers plans to increase the turbines efficiency by using fiberglass blades.

He's happy with his decision and hopes to inspire more campers to try innovative solutions for power - harness the power of nature while connecting with nature - much better than dragging out the gas generator and filling our parks with enough noise pollution to make everyone think they pitched their tents on a construction site.

If you'd like to more about building your own wind powered turbine, visit http://www.otherpower.com/otherpower_wind_tips.html to learn about how they work and http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/06/how_to_build_yo_1.php for directions to build your own.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In Praise of Farmers

Lisa Kerschner and her husband Ike love growing food for real people. They are the owners of North Star Orchard in Cochranville, PA. In 1992 they started with a 4 acre piece of ground. By 1996 they added another 6 acres and today they farm 20 acres, in all, producing fruit and vegetables of all varieties to sell at their local farmer's market.

You probably won't see Lisa driving around in a new Mercedes or sporting a Rolex. There are no windfalls in farming but in her recent article in Newsweek, Lisa tells about the meaningful life she's found tending the land and providing one of civilizations three basic needs - Food.

Better yet, she and her husband sell homegrown, sun-ripened goodness. The pears and tomatoes are full of flavor and color - not the bland product what you find in the grocery store that's shipped in from industrial farms from around the world.

I know exactly what she means when drawing this contrast. Every summer, my father has a vegetable garden. It's small, about a half acre but on that small plot he grows corn, okra, beans, cabbage, lettuce, squash, tomatoes...I could go on and on about the varieties he's tried. We always had fresh food and in the winter we ate the vegetables my mother had canned or frozen during the harvest season. I never appreciated it until now.

Our world is facing a food shortage. I heard yesterday that rice is being rationed by some of the large food chains in the US. A majority of our population does not know how or lacks the resources to grow their own food. We are at the mercy of industrial farms, big business, and government regulation. That's the downside.

The upside is we can change that. If you have a yard plant a few vegetables. Most are so easy to grow with a little care and simple knowledge. No yard, plant tomatoes in pots. Lobby for responsible farming that produces sustenance for people, not fuel for cars or food for consumer products (cattle). I'm not advocating that everyone become a vegetarian but if just half of the land around the world that is now being used as grazing land and acreage to grow food for the cattle were converted to rice, wheat, and millet, I believe we could solve the food shortage dilemma.

Lisa says she loves going to the farmer's market and interacting with the people who buy and actually eat the food she grows. It must be so satisfying. I remember the look on my parent's faces when they'd give away bundles of vegetables to their friends. They knew they were giving away something of great value. Not only does their gift feed the bodies of people they loved but it feeds their souls when they grow and share something so important.

Next time you meet a farmer, say thank you..honor him or her. They certainly deserve it and I believe, in the coming years they will become more important to us than our banker or doctor.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Las Vegas Writer's Conference - Big Success

Every spring I look forward to attending the Las Vegas Writer's Conference. Each conference grows in quality and prestige. The 147 attendees lucky enough to get into this sold out event rubbed elbows with a handful of literary agents and editors and picked the brains of faculty flown in from all over the country.

This year felt different to me. Conferences were always about the search for an agent, a gatekeeper who believed in my work, as I like to think of them. Last year I was lucky enough to be introduced to such a person and sign with his agency. No butterflies or involuntary fits of nerves for me this time. I didn't have to convince anyone of anything. I'd crossed that threshold so I enjoyed the lectures, made new friends, and volunteered with the conference staff.

As I watched my fellow writers charging the gates of the publishing industry with their latest polished bio and synopsis in hand, I realized that they ( the writers/my friends) hold the true key to the gate. Hard work, confidence, planning, and preparedness are the notches in the metal needed to find the right fit with the right agent...and yes, luck and timing figure in somewhere too.

The best thing about this year was the encouragement I was able to give to other writers on the verge of discovery. One agent asked me, "So who do I need to talk to while I'm here? You know what they are writing." Floored that he would seek my advice, I pulled myself together and pointed him toward a few writers with manuscripts I love. I hope it helped. I hope their dreams come true because next time I fly to New York, I want a buddy on the plane with me.

On the personal front, I had a moment at the end of the conference where I just had to sit down and take stock of how far I've come. Because of the hard work of my fabulous agent, my manuscript is sitting on desks, waiting to be considered by editors in 10 of the largest publishing houses in the country. This little girl from a small town in Georgia had to take a deep breath and shed a few tears of joy. No matter what happens from this moment on, I'll hold that feeling inside my heart forever.

If you are reading this and you write...don't give up! Keep writing, keep honing your craft, keep persevering and your magical time will come. Case in point is the author of the recently released children's book Granny McFanny. Lewis Kimberly is my dear friend. Last year she pitched her idea for Granny McFanny to Stephen's Press and debuted her new book on the first night of the conference. Dreams do come true!

By the way, my preschooler has been running around the house for the last few days yelling, "Granny McFanny for President!" Buy the book for a child you love and you'll understand why this is so adorable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things For LifePrints Readers To Do While I'm Out Of Pocket

Later this week I'll be one of the attendees at the sold out Las Vegas Writer's Conference. This awesome weekend is coordinated by the Henderson Writer's Group. I'm also presenting a session on Thursday afternoon about how to get the most out of a conference and sitting on a panel called "The author/agent relationship" on Friday. This is a first for me and to step from the shadows to be on the fringe of the faculty is exciting and scary to say the least.

So this is the last new post for the week. I have so much to do to prepare for presenting, volunteering and pitching a new project that LifePrints is going silent for a few days.

To keep you going, here are a some of my favorite ideas for passing the time:

Read a good book- I recommend Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, American Gods by Neal Gaiman, WAKE by Lisa McMann, and Writer's Block volume I and II (a collection of stories by Vegas Valley Authors). I have short stories in both volumes. Volume II was released yesterday and will make its debut at the conference.

Watch an amazing movie - Try Waitress or Juno. Those are my latest favorites. For heavier fare, try Blood Diamond, Body of War or Redacted. Or something in the middle, A Mighty Heart or The Pursuit of Happyness.

Check out a good blog - There are many listed in my sidebars and they are all worthy of your support.

Or turn off the computer and spend time with someone you love or doing a good deed for a stranger. Better yet, if you extend yourself in kindness over the next few days, let me know and I will post the details of your good deed.

Have a great week and I'll see you on Monday!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Michael C. Flanigan - Real Artists Create Their Own Paths

Today, Kevin Goodman is my guest blogger. He has an important story to tell about the exceptional life of Michael C. Flanigan, poet and artist. We hope you enjoy it. Kevin has graciously decided that this shall be a Creative Commons Article, in hopes that you will repost it and spread the word to inspire others to over come the odds and make their own opportunities for success.
After reading this story you’ll be inspired to put the worst behind you and reach for your dreams. Michael C Flanigan has plenty to complain about but instead he is inspired. This abused orphan and ninth grade dropout became an author, a college teacher, and peer to some of the twentieth century’s greatest poets.

Michael was orphaned at the age of nine. His father killed his mother and then committed suicide. He probably would have been murdered too if he hadn’t sensed something wrong and ran away that day. Young Michael went to live with his grandparents on their rural family farm. He credits his grandfather’s simple ethics and unconditional love as being his salvation. Hardships at the farm and memories of a violent past eventually drove Michael into a breakdown. Michael left school in the ninth grade and spent three years in the state mental institution.

Despite the setbacks, he was an avid learner and spent his free time reading the classics, writing poetry, drawing, and painting. Determined to become a professional poet, the self-educated Flanigan ran away to New York City at the tender age of 17.

By 1965 Michael migrated to Buffalo where he managed to befriend and turn mentor the late Charles Olson (father of the Black Mountain Poets).Michael read at poetry events with the likes of Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, David Landrey, and Stanley Kubrick to name a few.

In 1967 Michael started his own publishing company and by 1969 he had published several books. In 1969 Michael became a faculty member at Buffalo State as artist in residence. Not titled a professor per se but he did earn the faculty merit award in 1970 and remained artist in residence until 1972.

Michael considers his career peak to be when Stanley Kubrick nominated his book ‘Scrapbooks’ for the Pulitzer. Michael recounts “Stanley said they wouldn’t give it to me, ‘but someday you might win’”. Michael say’s “That Stanley Kubrick considering me a great poet was the greatest honor. Well; aside from being accepted by Charles {Olson} as a student.”

From 1972 until the mid-nineties Michael conducted poetry workshops at over a dozen universities in the US and Canada and nearly a thousand junior high and high schools. Michael retired with his wife into rural Indiana near the campus of Indiana University in 1996. While his nine books are all currently out of print he is working with his agent to bring back the collected volumes along with his new and never before published poems and the biography of his unlikely life.

Michael many incarnations include a neglected, humiliated, and abused child, an orphan, a survivor, a mental patient, a self- educated entrepreneur, a college teacher, and an artist. Michael doesn’t believe he is special or great and credits his successes with being determined and open.

“I went all the way to Buffalo New York and I harassed Americas greatest poet (referring to Charles Olson) until he critiqued my work. When I couldn’t find a publisher for my first book I started my own publishing house. When my residency with the university expired, I created a traveling workshop and sold my program to the schools. You got to go after the best artist you can find, they have an obligation to teach and critique, you’ll earn a valuable reference," Flanigan says.

Michael offers this profound advice, "If you’re an artist and you’re determined, you’ll make a career. Real artists don’t give up they make a path for themselves when it’s not given to them.”

Michael is an inspiration to artist and writers, to those who have been abused, suffered mental illness, and those who have educated themselves but lack the ‘credentials’. Help Michael demonstrate the worth of his story by sharing this article with your friends. By forwarding and sharing this article you’ll not only be sharing inside news before it hits the wires you’ll be helping Michael demonstrate the value of his story to potential publishers.

Kevin D Goodman
SDMC/Artist Agent
The article is Creative Commons - Please share it as you see fit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation - 1 Billion Dollars To Solve Big Problems

The quickest way to change the world is to change yourself and care for those around you. Another way is to see the big picture and use your influence and money to tackle problems, that to the average American, seem incomprehensible.

Peter G. Peterson, self-made billionaire, son of a Greek immigrant, wants to provide a means to solve challenges in the U.S. economy - not by throwing money at them, that's too easy and also futile. In February, he announced the launch of his foundation and asked David M. Walker, former Comptroller General for the United States, to buy into his concept.

The concept - to target undeniable, unsustainable, and politically untouchable long term threats to our nation's future. He sees the main threats to be a gluttonous Social Security System, unprecedented trade deficits, ballooning Healthcare costs, selfish energy consumption, dangerous gaps in our educational system, and the threat of nuclear/biological warfare.

He believes that these monumental challenges require sacrifice on the part of all Americans from the fat cats all the way down the ladder. We can all do our part. The rich will have to pay more taxes, the government will have to spend less, everyone will have to save more. "I'm not sure if we remember how to give up something for the long-term general good. Nor do we hear calls for sacrifice from our leaders. Our lawmakers are enablers, either joining us in the state of denial or trying to anesthetize us. But if we can learn to face the future realistically, everyone will benefit from a more robust, sustainable economy," he says.

Peterson thinks that real change will start with young people. By reaching out to places like new media forms, bloggers, YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, the foundation will support the production of films to educate people about the perils America faces. He envisions youth summits and maybe an AAYP (American Association of Young People) who will counter the lobby of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) to ensure that decisions made are balanced and good for future generations.

He wants to re energize the business community that seems to be MIA when it comes to the larger challenges the world faces. They think in terms of immediate bottom line profit, instead of long term sustainability of business and life. The Peterson Foundation's first grants were awarded to The Concord Coalition for the Fiscal Wake-up Tour and Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative (in partnership with Warren Buffett).

Peterson believes the nation’s political leadership has fallen prey to short-term thinking and lacks the courage to clearly spell out the difficulties, contributing to a state of denial. “If Americans are told the truth, and if they feel the required sacrifices for our common future are fairly shared, I have enormous faith that they will respond with a commitment to identify and implement the right solutions,” Mr. Peterson said.

I'm hoping that more organizations like The Peterson Foundation will begin to appear across the landscape of political and social ideas. Then we will truly have a coalition for large scale change. The foundation claims that soon it will be expanding to include work for policy advocates, field educators, and digital media professionals in order to mobilize key constituencies and develop programs to support its cause.

A final quote from Mr. Peterson, " I know that the odds of success are daunting. Yet given what is at state and what I owe this remarkable country, I, and we, have no alternative but to try."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Happy Birthday To LifePrints - My Little Bloggy Is One!

Last spring my husband said, "This guy at work say it's possible to make tons of money with a blog. Why don't you think about starting one." Filled with visions of millions of Google Adsense dollars I went on a learning binge to figure out what the blogging hype was all about. Within a few weeks, my brainchild, LifePrints was born. So much easier and faster than the creation of my other children! That took nine months and some hard labor at the end.

A year later, I can proudly say that I love my little bloggy. She doesn't make me much money. Adsesnse will never pay my bills and I don't care. It's okay because what I've gained by spending time with 'her' is so much more valuable than ad clicks. My fellow writer/bloggers probably get understand thise but for those who are shaking their heads, let me explain...

Because of LifePrints and it's focus on the positive, my world view has slowly shifted from 'we are hopelessly doomed" to "wow! we can make this work if we just try". Because of my constant search for topics and people to write about I always have my ear to the ground for the good things in life. That's a huge paradigm shift for me.

When I wrote about the maimed children of Sierra Leone I cried as I typed and when I wrote about the fun of spontaneous pillow fights, I laughed out loud and couldn't wait to attack my brood with a big fluffy one when they walked in the door. Writing for my blog has opened my eyes to different views of the world and all the emotions that come along with them.

I now have friends and collegues all over the world. My favorites are in Malta, Paris, Perth, New York, Virginia, California, and Illinois. And some I'd like to put on this list but I'm not sure where they live. Someday I hope to meet a few of them in person and thank them for their kindness and generosity of spirit.

Constantly writing articles forces me to hone my skills, not the least of which are the research and development of ideas. Even though I've cut back on how often I post these days, I look forward to each and every time I sit down with LifePrints. I'm pushing 200 posts in my archives and I'm proud of the quality I've produced so far.

I love my readers and the interactions with them. I love comments, so please leave more and more. The back and forth flow of ideas is facinating to me. Blog Catalog sends many of you my way. They are an energetic bunch and I am happy to be part of that community. For those of you who find me by accident, thank you for reading and bless you heart. I'm sure you were surprised if you were searching for an article about "homemade plasma gasifiers". or "think thank thunk". Don't laugh, some poor soul ended up here using those search terms. All I can say is I hope you come back again.

If you have ideas for posts or know someone doing a good turn for the world, please let me know. I'd love to hear about them. I hope to keep my little bloggy alive for many years to come and if 'her'growth in one year is any indication of the future, it will be an exciting ride filled with many opportunities....and I don't mean big checks from adsense. Sorry Google, I love you but....

Happy Birthday to my little 'girl'. She's not a baby any more!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"All Things Temporary" - Confessions Of A Young Foster Mother

Greetings from Mars -

Some couples create gobs of children and plaster the hallways of their homes from ceiling to floor with school pictures. Others thrive on quiet and solitude with one child as the focus of their energy.

I've met screaming families who would argue about the color of butter, but whose genuine love and deep loyalty kept them afloat during all manner of disease and heartache. I've met siblings that appeared loving but in actuality had swallowed gallons of anger until the day one of them burst into a murderous rage over funeral decisions for their dead mother.

Entering foster care exposed a different side of family life, a side where parents beat children senseless for wetting the bed. In this world, mothers twisted little boys' arms to the point of breaking them and fathers tore their daughters apart from the inside out with cutting words and deadly insults. Still, I'd never seen a family like Sandy's.

We officially met Darryl and Maricela Hooper on November 14th in a mediation room at the Laramie County courthouse. When they walked in the door, I recognized them right away because Maricela sported the same high-heeled boots she'd worn to the mall on Halloween.

Watching Darryl Hooper's precise demeanor reminded me of Sandy's comments at the dinner table. In the past weeks, she'd worked to make a connection with Raymond by discussing her father's military career. To me she'd said, "My dad's from Georgia just like you."

Darryl nodded to Jenny and Mrs. Benefield. Before sitting down, he leaned across the table and shook hands with Raymond. "Pleasure to meet you," he greeted my husband. And like a southern man should, he pulled out a chair for his wife.

Sandy's mother might well be crazy, but as I suspected, she possessed the same timeless, exotic beauty as her daughter. Maricela crossed her arms and slid into the seat. When she did, she seemed to shrink, to fold in on herself like origami. I wondered if I should reach out to her; introduce myself as the woman who'd stepped into her maternal shoes. Unable to act, I took a deep breath and somewhere in the middle of my exhaling, Mrs. Benefield spoke up.

She clasped her hands and rested them on the table in front of her stately bosom. "We all know why we're here. When a child has been a ward of the state for one year, there is a case review meeting between all parties involved. This is Sandy's review."

Sandy's father interrupted, "I got something to say before we go any further. My wife and I won't be takin' the girl back."

"Mr. Hooper…"

"Nope. No use in talkin' about it. We've made up our minds. You just go on and do what ever it is you plan to do. That'll be fine with us."

"Mr. Hooper, reunification is the state's ultimate goal. I'm compelled to ask why you don't want to be reunited with your daughter." Mrs. Benefield leaned forward. Her fingertips had turned white as if she were channeling her frustration into her clenched hands.

Darryl pushed back from the table. "Come on Maricela. We've said what we needed to say." Maricela unfolded from the chair, preparing to walk out with her husband.

"Sandy can't stay in foster care forever," Jenny blurted out.

Darryl turned to Jenny and pushed his thumbs into the pockets of his crisp Wrangler jeans, preparing for a showdown. "Won't be forever. She'll be grown soon." Before any of us could scream out in protest, he pulled the door closed behind them.

I held my breath and watched the door. For a moment, the knob seemed suspended in mid-turn. I wondered if the Hoopers wished to hit the rewind button and change the decisions that would surely follow. But, the lock slipped into place and the sharp click of boots on tile could be heard as Sandy's mother left the building.

What you've just read is an excerpt from my memoir "All Things Temporary".

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Earth Hour - Missed It? Plan for March 29, 2009

This is a picture of Sydney, Australia during Earth Hour 2008. This past Saturday in cities and towns around the world people turned off their lights for one hour. The global warming awareness event was sponsored by WWF, the world wildlife fund.

At 8pm our local time my husband threw the breaker switch on our house and we went off-grid for Earth Hour. At first my son complained about missing the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards and sulked on the couch. My youngest jumped up and down with excitement over sitting in the dark in the backyard. He thought it would be fun.

After a heated and hilarious debate about the amount of carbon emissions it would create we decided start a small fire in our chimenea and convinced our son to come outside and enjoy the fire. It turned out to be a relaxing hour spent talking and joking. We ate dinner by firelight and enjoyed each others undivided attention.

I don't know how much our effort helped to stem the tide of global warming. I'm sure it was nothing more than a drop in the bucket but that's okay. It gave us a reason to slow down. As I watched the sparks from the fire mingle with the starry sky, I said a little prayer that our children will have a healthy world to grow old in.

I wouldn't mind doing a power-free hour like this more often. I wonder what would happen if my whole neighborhood went off-grid for an hour or my entire community. Not only would we make a noticeable dip at the power plant but we might all be happier after an hour spent with the people we love.