Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Happy Holidays to all!

To all my friends, I will not be blogging from today until after New Year.  A very Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating and the Happiest New Year.  Most of all, I wish everybody peace, prosperity and health.

See you in a week or so!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest: My imaginary friends...

Today is the Deja vu Blogfest Day!  Hoorah!

I thought I'd re-post something that I wrote in year 2007, the year I started blogging. Why this one?  It's because in this post, I wrote about my imaginary friends which I still find amusing to this day. This is the story behind my blog title, Conversations with Self.  

And no, I did not exaggerate the story.  I did talk to imaginary friends...which worried my father.

Hope you enjoy reading it!


First posted on 08 May 2007

I don't know why, but for some reason, I tend to reminisce a lot about my childhood these days. Last week, it was Caroline (my doll) I was reminiscing about so I wrote about broken toys and then somehow found a way to connect it to broken dreams, etc. This time, though, it's all about this part of my childhood when I had imaginary friends. If you witnessed my childhood, you would probably think I was a looney. But think...children do have imaginary friends, don't they? Or was it only me? (Widens eyes and looks around) Embarrassed Oh, no!

Anyway, let me tell you about some of these 'friends' that people never saw...or some probably did but never knew that they were my friends. One of them was that reflection in the mirror. yes, oh, yes, call me a nutcase, but I did talk to myself in the mirror! I would really converse with the other 'self.' And she talked back to me! Only, it was also me talking, of course, who did you think it was? I used to do this very often that I overheard my Dad saying to my Mom, 'Don't you think we should take our daughter to a Psychiatrist? I am getting worried.' My Mom, who was so used to seeing me talking to my toys, said nonchalantly, 'Oh stop that. She's just playing. Children do that all the time.'

Yes, I said toys. I did talk to my toys (although I didn't have much, really) - I remember talking to Caroline while she was behind that glass. What a pity. I could only talk to my doll behind a glass! (will post her story soon) I also talked to my paper dolls which I made myself. They lived in an improvised dollhouse. I used matchboxes as furniture and my dollhouse was a corrugated box, sometimes I used a cigarette carton. Ahh, a child's innovativeness. I wonder where did it all go? I don't seem to have the same creativity now that I am older. But that's another narrative. I think I can only produce rubbish now...and perhaps children? Tongue Out

Hold it. That's not all. There is something far more special than that beautiful (oh ha!) reflection in the mirror that looked like me (Har! Har Har!) and my dolls. There were lizards as well. Yes! That's right, those tiny crawling creatures with moderately elongate body and tapering tail...some might have another name for it, though. They are sometimes called wall or house lizards. Other times they are called house geckos. But let me just call it that. Lizard. At night, I developed this routine to converse with them before I'd fall asleep. There was one time, if I remember it right, when my Dad came home late from work. Remember that in those days, there were no mobile phones...(and telegrams came after a week, not the promised next day if you'd send it, you'd arrive at your destination before your telegram). When Mom started to get worried, I would listen to the clicking sounds of the lizards. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I would close my eyes and converse with them. 'Is - my - fa - ther - safe?' One Tsk is equivalent to a syllable. Of course, I would interpret the Tsk-Tsk to what I wanted to hear, what did you expect? Funny, huh?

All these imaginary friends come to mind now that I am away from home. I have forgotten them a long, long time ago and never spoken to them for years - if I ever did that at my age, I would probably be in a mental institution.Frown

Isn't it a universal truth that from the day we were born, we already have the need to communicate? A baby's uttering of its first word is always a milestone, a breakthrough that all mothers rejoice in. I have read somewhere that there was an experiment done by experts where they formed two groups of babies. The first group was cleaned and fed but no one ever communicated with them - verbally or otherwise. The second group was cleaned and fed...and carers communicated with these babies. After a period of time, it was discovered that the second group of babies grew faster and were healthier than the first group. This experiment only proves that we do need to communicate. It is this uniqueness that sets us apart from other creatures.

This is most probably the reason why I am writing this piece. There is the internet now to communicate to practically everyone and anyone in the world. My friend, Rosemarie, was right in telling me that blogging helps. It would like to thank her for being an inspiration to create my own blogsite...(and to Makis for introducing Blogger to me). It sure eases boredom and makes me think. It fills my need to communicate.

So, this time, I don't have to stand in front of the mirror or listen to the clicking sound of the house lizards (there isn't any here, anyway) or get dolls. I only have to sit down and immerse myself in the world wide web. It does help.

PS: I will understand if you think that at an early age, I showed signs of a mental disorder - talking to lizards and all Roll - but don't worry, I don't bite. Aha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Chat with Author Catherine Ryan Hyde

I am so proud to bring to you the author who brought us Pay It Forward, a very popular, heartbreaking and yet so beautiful story of a young boy who attempts to make this world a better place.  I cannot begin to tell you how awesome she is...but without much further ado, I bring to you the amazing Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Pay It Forward is only one of her novels.  please visit her website HERE to know more about her books.

Our Chat

Len:  I’ve seen the film, Pay It Forward, and saw how much it’s grown into a movement and a foundation.  It’s amazing that a book turned into a film continues to help people.  Please can you tell us how you came up with the story idea?

Catherine:  Yes, absolutely. I used to not like this question because it was a long story and I had told it literally hundreds of times. But I found what I think is a good solution. I edited a videotaped speech where I told the story in proper detail, and I posted it on my YouTube channel. So now I’m glad you asked. Because I’ve put a lot of work into my YouTube channel, and there’s a lot out there for my readers to explore. So I’m happy to be able to give a link to that.

The story of my inspiration for the Pay It Forward idea is here: 

And the channel main page is here: 

I have video excerpts for most of the novels, which are little videos I made myself, with excerpts read by me. I have videos from my hiking and travel and other videos that are Pay It Forward related. I hope people will take a look around out there!

L:  You’ve written so many books.  Do you also have a day job?

C:  I do not. Since 1998, I have managed to keep the bills paid with my writing, as well as looking after my retired mom. Although I have to admit that there are times when I am not succeeding in doing so by as comfortable a margin as I might like. But I persevere.

I also have no spouse or children. Which really does explain a big piece of how I manage to get so much done. Nobody ever tugs my sleeve while I’m writing and says, “What’s for dinner?” or “Hey, mom, look at me.” This is not to denigrate spouses and children in any way. But the singular focus helps me to be more prolific.  

L:  Please can you describe to us your writing day?

C:  Well. I can describe two possible days. 
In one, I get up, do 15 minutes of Yoga, check my email, drink a cup of tea, and start writing. Sometime around 2:30 I realize my teeth are not brushed. Sometime around 5:00 I realize I should eat. Having remedied those issues, I get back to work.

On other days, I still do Yoga and tea, but I spend the whole day without writing. If I have a work in progress and I have something worth getting down, I work. If not, I balance the check book and get the oil changed in the car. Because later, when I’m working, I won’t do either of those things.

L:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

C:  Somewhere in between, I think. I like to know where I’m going so I don’t get lost and end up nowhere. But I don’t like to hammer down where I’m going so tightly that I miss an interesting side trip. So I’m forever trying to hit that balance. 

L:  I find your books focus on kindness and love...have you always wanted to write this kind, which I love, of stories?

C:  I think there was a time, a couple of decades ago, where my work was darker and edgier. And then, as I gradually got lighter, so did the stories. 

L:  In ‘When I Found You,’ it was interesting to know about guns  and duck-hunting.  Did you have to interview people about guns and duck-hunting?

C:  Interestingly, though I have never hunted, I know just a little bit about shotguns and hunting because I once took a hunter safety course. Even though I don’t hunt. It’s like this: There was a lottery for permits to hunt mountain lions. Very controversial. There are very few lions, and most people think they should be allowed to live. So a group of us got together and got our hunting licenses, so we could join the lottery. So one of us could hopefully win a permit which we would not use, thus saving one lion. But it all ended rather anticlimactically when the lottery was called off, which I think was for the best.
I did have a friend of mine, who is a hunter, in Pennsylvania, check my work before publication.

L:  In ‘Don’t Let Me Go,’ you wrote about child protective system and social services, was the research challenging to get information that’s in the book? 

C:  Not too much. I was able to learn a lot online. And every case is a little bit different.

L:  Who are your favourite authors?

C:  I read a lot of Young Adult novels (of course I write them as well) and I like Holly Schindler and David Levithan and Jerry Spinelli (who might not be well-known in the UK—I’m not sure).
My favorite adult author is Jonathan Safran Foer.

L:  Favourite books?

C:  My favorite “classics” from when I was young are Flowers for Algernon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice and Men.

More recent favorites are Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer) and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak).

L:  Which writing books would you recommend that would help us writers to improve more our writing?
C:  For those having trouble getting started (or not stalling) I’d recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

In general I don’t think I’d recommend books so much as a good writing (critique) group. I know books feel much safer. Which is the problem. Writers need to get used to hearing feedback. It’s unavoidable.

L:  Your biggest influence?

C:  Nature - particularly the breathtakingly beautiful vistas I see when I hike in the national parks

L:  Greatest weakness?

C:  Potato chips.  Otherwise, I am a fiendishly healthy eater.

L:  Please complete this into a sentence for me:  "When I was a child, I wanted to be...."

C:  A cartoonist.  A songwriter.  An actress.  A film producer.  An animator.  Always something creative.  Just took me a while to find my niche.


It is so nice to get to know you more.  Thank you ever so much for this lovely interview.  It is an honour to have you on my blog.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I'm a mushy mum

You know this already...I'm a mum.  And a mushy mum.  I don't know why but I'm just a darn softie.  You show me someone crying and my tears will fall, too.  To be honest, I don't like it.  But that's just the way my eyes are and the tear ducts.

Ok, Len, get to the point, will yah?

So, I just have to share this photo with you.  It's of my son holding a soft toy from Father Christmas at Fritton Lake Winter Wonderland.

Because of his neurological condition, my boy doesn't speak and he's in a wheelchair.  In Santa's Grotto, Father Christmas spoke to him, held his hand and had photos with him.  He just looked around and I knew the scene would be etched in his memory forever but whether or not he understood what went on, I wouldn't have a way of knowing. All the while, I wondered if he understood any of it.  When one of Santa's "Elves" gave me Santa's gift - a soft toy called Rupert Bear on the way out, I handed it to my boy.  As if to answer the question in my mind - he softly got hold of the soft toy, pulled it close to his chest and pressed it against his lips.

You know what?  The sight of him clutching the toy made me so tearful.  He loved it.  In his own way I knew he enjoyed the trip.  And he loved Rupert.

Here's his beautiful photo.  Isn't he lovely?

And I just have to say this, the man who was Father Christmas that afternoon at Fritton Lake was the kindest Father Christmas I've met so far.  If you are reading this, thank you.  I've taken your kind words home with me.

And thank you most especially to Contact-A-Family for this early Christmas family gift. (I meant to post this bit the day I posted my son's photo but needed permission first)

Anything exciting you're doing this for the winter/holiday/Christmas season?

and what makes you all mushy?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Friendship Celebration Winners!

I'm announcing the winners today!  But before I give you the results, I'd like to thank the sponsors of the books I'm giving away for their generosity and most of all, their friendship:

My sincerest thanks wrapped in a big HUG to you all!

Now the winners! 

Lucky (paperback) by Alice Sebold goes to:
L'Aussie Denise

The Breath of Fresh Air (paperback) by Erica James
goes to:
Sharon Mayhew

Build A Man (e-book) by Talli Roland
goes to:
Golden Eagle

The Doll (e-book) by JC Martin goes to:

Unidentified (paperback) by Rae Mariz goes to:
Robyn Campbell

Floral Writing Set goes to:
Cortney Pearson

You will receive an e-mail shortly about your prize.  Yayyy! to you all!!!

Wait! Before I say goodbye, have you been to JC Martin's blog?  She's announced the winners to her Birthday Blow-Out!  Here's the link:  JC Martin, Fighter Writer.

Have a fab Sunday, everyone!