Forgive me for shouting, but this feels good! A friend, Jim McFarlin, shot this pic at the Fresh Produce store on El Paseo.
All posts in category Meeting Our Goals Together
Forgive me for shouting, but this feels good! A friend, Jim McFarlin, shot this pic at the Fresh Produce store on El Paseo.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on June 27, 2013
Last Saturday morning, I hit the freeway and headed west for my very first book fair as an author. While nervously rethinking all my gear (DVD player for book trailer, books, small bills for change, pens, etc.) I suddenly realized I was living my dream, returning as a published author to the town where I’d spent most of my corporate career. No matter how much my day job beat me up, I had never stopped dreaming of becoming a writer, and now, I was one! I stopped fretting about my equipment and indulged in some memories:
- I was 26, newly divorced and living in a bad part of town in a tiny (780 sq. ft.) house with my eighteen-month-old son. Working full-time (with side jobs selling Jafra and bartending), and mostly exhausted. Writing was a very distant dream. Like never.
- I was 36, living in the high desert and commuting down the Cajon Pass every day for my HR job at Jurupa Unified School District. On my weekend morning walks, I carried a little tablet and a pencil in my pocket, and worked out solutions to scenes in my head. Those scenes went in a box, awaiting the day I could shape them into stories.
- I was 38, sitting in my car at the Cedar Springs Dam, overlooking Lake Silverwood. The car was rocking, buffeted by an incoming squall, while I wrote in a tablet. My second marriage was on its last legs, and I was dying a little bit inside as I watched storm clouds engulf the distant shore. I felt incompetent as a grown-up, let alone the fact that I would never be a writer.
- I was 48, and my son was independent. Now that I was finally able to work part-time and write, they told me I missed my shot. The publishing industry had changed. Agents and publishers now asked that you first develop a platform (i.e. thousands of ready customers). So while I learned how to put together a novel, I also built a website; I created and discarded three blogs before finding one that felt like home (this one); and learned about Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networking sites.
- I am now 58. Dakota Blues is published! My novel has become a reality, and like the Little Red Hen, I did it all myself. That is, if you discount the three editors, cover designer, book trailer developer, and publishing and marketing services. Not to mention several mentors, my beloved friends, and a supportive family.
So, on Saturday I arrived at the book fair, got set up, met everybody, ate a couple cookies provided by our thoughtful hosts, and waited for the doors to open. It was September 15, what would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, so I looked heavenward and asked him for luck.
When it was over, I’d invested six hours (if you count the drive) on this mission to tell people about Dakota Blues. If you measure the day in human terms, it was a ten. I enjoyed the company of my fellow authors, the library staffers and volunteers, and the people who dropped in to see what was for sale.
In pure commercial ROI, however, it wasn’t so great. I sold five copies, which was more than most of my fellow authors. I donated to the library, swapped copies with another author, and when you throw in a few more bucks for gas, I broke even.
When I got home, I sat with my husband and a glass of wine and evaluated. There are other activities that would bring in better results. Like sleeping late and not going anywhere. You know I’m babysitting all week and my weekends are precious. How I would have enjoyed the time off.
Why am I telling you this? It’s kind of embarrassing.
Because I want to show by my example that it’s rarely easy to chase after your dreams, no matter what your age. Many younger people slave away in the wee hours to build the foundation for their dream. It’s not easy for them either. In my case, I sometimes feel foolish to be so obsessed. Us older peeps are encouraged to relax, slow down, smell the flowers, and all that, but I can’t. This is my dream, and I’m going to see it through. I have two more full-length novels in my head and two collections of short stories. I’ll be attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference this weekend to find inspiration and information. I love the company of creative people, and I enjoy thinking of myself as a businessperson, with a storefront on Amazon.com and in the trunk of my car. This is my American Dream. I hope you have one, too.
Dakota Blues, a story of midlife reinvention, our immigrant roots, the sweetness of the American Heartland, the bonds of friendship, and the wisdom of our elders, is available at Amazon.com. If you’ve already read it and enjoyed the experience, please rate it on Amazon, Goodreads or your favorite book site.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on September 21, 2012
After the book signing on August 25, a half-dozen of us sat around, drinking wine and BS-ing, the best kind of sisterly gathering. The topic was looks. Specifically, what we do at our age to look good, and what constitutes “good.” The gathering happened in Indio, in the looks- and wealth-obsessed Coachella Valley, home of Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, and La Quinta; those monied resort towns.
We agreed we should try to feel good about how we look. But we’re trained to try to look younger. It seems every other billboard in the Valley is for body work.
We all want to update our thinking, so we can feel satisfied with our looks even if we’re older, and not automatically equate looking good with looking young. My wise friend Dorys said the reason we do this is we’re in competition. I asked for what? One woman laughingly said for men but that wasn’t really true anymore - we’re beyond that now. If the men are smart enough to see how cool we are, far out. If not, hell with it.
In some cases we are competing with younger people in the business world, whether as employees or purveyors of a service or product. In that case, you want to look younger because employers equate that with a better employee. It’s a mindless prejudice , but it’s out there, and like my shrink used to say, if you’re in the game, play to win.
But my friends and I kicked this around: if we’re not trying to get a job or something (i.e. manhunt) that benefits from looking younger, why do we hold that up as our goal? Why don’t we just try to look good for our age?
Dorys said it’s because we have a metro mindset. In the Coachella Valley, we’re competing with Los Angeles and New York. We all agreed we need to change our thinking. That’s where the strength of age comes in – we ‘re strong enough to say, “I don’t need to look young. I’m not competing.”
One of us, Kathryn, lives on an acre of land, in a house built in 1948. She has horses and chickens, and the property borders one of these wealthy, cosmopolitan cities. Although she’s very stylish, she doesn’t try to look like she’s twenty. She said, “I don’t live in that place. I may physically live right next to it, but mentally, I don’t live there.” Kathryn lives wherever she wants, because that place is in her head. She creates that place, that world. She defines that world to her own satisfaction.
I thought that was an enlightened point of view. We can move away from that place in our head. We can live anywhere we want: the land of hyper-competition or the land of mental peace.
Thanks to Tammy Coia, the Memoir Coach, for sponsoring this gathering. Your community of women writers is a loyal and supportive group, and I am honored to be part of it. I’m also excited to be speaking at the Women Inspiring Women Conference on January 26, 2013.
Here’s a bonus for you from Debra Ollivier, who blogs for HuffPost 50: Five Big Misconceptions About Growing Older.
Also, I’m rededicating myself to a passion of mine: I’m going to find good midlife (age forty and up) fiction and publicize it. I want to create a gathering place for books and readers who want to read about the experience of the second half of our lives. If you read or write one, let me know. I’ll add it to my Midlife Fiction – Book Recommendations page. I hope you’ll help me build this into a fun, lively, and awesome resource for all of us.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on September 7, 2012
I’ve spent my life denying it, but now that I’m older, I have to raise the white flag. Women can be backstabbers. Before you respond in horror, let me explain.
A few weeks ago we talked about women undermining and sniping at each other, and I said that, while I hate to think it’s anything more than sour grapes, I found out there actually is some basis in fact for this behavior. I said I would do some research and get back to you. Okay, I’m no sociologist, and my research consisted of finishing the very good book, In the Company of Women – Indirect Aggression Among Women: Why We Hurt Each Other and How To Stop.
The good news is that women are able to accomplish SO much together, and when they support each other, are unstoppable!
The bad news is, women are different from men, which means, they’re different from what you think you know, because usually the researchers study men, especially in the workplace. Lots of us women try to act like men as we climb the corporate ladder, and that makes life even more difficult. We struggle and sometimes fail without knowing why. We’re discouraged and confused, but if you find the work of Drs. Pat Heim and Susan Murphy believable, there’s a logical reason for the difference, and while the authors have documented their assertions exhaustively, I think you can boil it down to this:
Men relate to each other hierarchically, whereas women relate to each other as peers.
Men form a team, fight for their positions in the hierarchy, and then settle in, happy to know where they fit. The leader may not be liked or even respected, but everybody accepts that he’s in the driver’s seat. If a guy decides to make a run for the top, there’s bloodletting, but once he gets there, everybody settles down again. Think of male herd animals fighting for the right to mate and I think you’ll get the idea.
But women! Women aspire to a horizontal structure. Think of, again, a herd of females. They guard each other. They eat together. In most species, their babies are born at the same time and defended collectively. I know we’re not horses or antelope, but consider this: with very few exceptions, we like to think we’re all equal. If a woman does something to rise above other women, or appears to think more highly of herself than is considered seemly, look out! The authors assert that, in the corporate setting, higher-level women have to make sure the lower-level women receive some kind of emotional or status-related compensation in order to maintain balance in the power relationship. Otherwise, they’ll see her as too big for her britches and make sure she fails.
I would go into more detail, but there isn’t enough space in this post. Below, I’ll list the points I found amazing or profound, and you can let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on any of them in future posts. In any case, you can read the book. It’s fascinating, and it’s written by women, in a way that is very respectful OF women.
- Women are somewhat more comfortable with a powerful woman who plays down her importance than one who does not.
- For a positive relationship to be possible between two women, the self-esteem and power of both must be approximately even. (There are exceptions, as in a mentoring relationship.) This is called the “Power Dead-Even Rule,” and although it has profound impacts on all female relationships, it is invisible to most women.
- The female stress response (“tend and befriend”) results in the release of oxytocin, a calming chemical. In times of stress, women seek out other women with whom to commiserate, which is great for their mental health, but tends to get the team all riled up against the person who caused the problem in the first place. Hence cliques and sabotage develop. (If the source of the stress is a woman, OMG. What a nightmare. As the new VP of Something, she’s trying to fit in with the largely male brass and probably doesn’t even know about the Power Dead-Even Rule, poor thing. She’s trying to rule like a man and unknowingly shooting herself in the Louboutin.)
- The authors propound what they call “chip theory,” in that individual women hold a certain number of chips (positive attributes or actions). Beauty is a chip. Wealth is a chip. A high-level career is a chip. Poise is a chip. A great husband is a chip, as are teenagers who don’t steal cars or get drunk in public. Chips are constantly exchanged with others to maintain even stature between women, and we do this naturally. If you get a compliment, chances are you’ll put yourself down in response, so as to keep the complimenter feeling good, too. That’s chip management, and it’s the strategy we use, consciously or not, to adhere to the Power Dead-Even Rule.
- The authors, who have trained over 20,000 people in Fortune 500 companies, say they often hear frustration from upwardly-mobile women who “don’t have time for such foolishness.” The authors respond: you can pay now or pay later, and later is when you lose control over the situation. Women have been fired for failure to succeed, and often, nobody can figure out why! But the “why” is that they were pulled under and drowned because they didn’t understand what their sisters needed.
- Most women care deeply about other women. We are all in this together. Without women in our lives, we feel lonely and incomplete, but nearly every one of us bears the scars of being attacked by other women, sometimes en masse, and we were disillusioned and discouraged over it.
Bottom line, there are biological, psychological, social and cultural reasons why women relate to each other the way we do, and you can ignore it, or you can decide to add the knowledge to your skill set and save yourself a lot of grief. There’s more to this book than what I’ve written, including some great self-tests and suggested strategies. I absolutely recommend it.
In other news…
Since Dakota Blues was published, I’ve been honored to have been interviewed by some fantastic bloggers! I don’t want to play favorites, because I’m grateful to each one for their interest and for letting me share their space. You might want to check them out in any event because they are kindred spirits, women journeying on paths similar to yours. Here they are:
Posted by Lynne Spreen on August 24, 2012
After earning a self-created, home-cooked degree in How To Write A Novel (with a minor in How To Build a Platform)…
After writing and throwing away hundreds of pages that just weren’t quite good enough…
After years of answering my friends and family: “Almost!” and “Pretty soon!”
Two big things happened.
I discovered a passion for the topic of aging powerfully, and
On July 17, a date that would have been my mom and dad’s 63rd wedding anniversary,
I published my very first novel!
Dakota Blues is about:
- midlife reinvention,
- the quest to find meaning and empowerment in the second half of life,
- the need to feel a connection with our ancestors,
- dealing with the issues that hit without warning as we age,
- whether we’re too old at a certain point to start something new,
- whether it’s selfish and ungrateful to want more, and
- finding the courage to change later in life.
Or, putting words into pictures, here’s what you’ll find in Dakota Blues (available now in paperback, and on Kindle in the second week of August, +/-):
I can’t tell you how much this means to me, to have reached this goal, and to have done it at fifty-eight. This is a time when many of us are rethinking our lives, and wondering whether to break through the age limitations placed on us by an earlier set of beliefs.
This is what we’re supposed to be doing, folks: chasing our dreams like there’s no tomorrow, excited as kids, refusing to lie down and let the culture of low expectations steamroll us. This is how to live in the second half. This is how to live, period. That’s what my character, Karen Grace, struggles with, and that’s what Dakota Blues is about.
I hope you buy a copy, and if you do, I hope you love it enough to add a rating to the Dakota Blues page on Amazon or Goodreads. Ratings mean everything in this online, digitized society, where there’s far too material to sort through without help.
Thanks for standing by me while I struggled. I hope I can do the same for you someday.
PS Today is the fourth anniversary of my father’s passing. I hope he can see what I’ve done. I miss him more than I can say.
Posted by Lynne Spreen on July 27, 2012