Monthly Archives: July 2014

What is Greatness?


What is true greatness?

Being a teacher, a fireman, a soldier. A forgiver, peacemaker. Being the man who saved our forests, valleys, mountains. Kept  the wilderness wild.

A man like John Muir.


A recent visit to Yosemite National Park reacquainted me with the story of John Muir, much of which I had forgotten. He is the man who fought to place our national parks under federal protection, the man who gave us Yosemite, Yellowstone, and many more.

The grandfather of the American National Parks — hundreds of acres of natural beauty forever preserved.

Such a human mystery, isn’t it? In a world filled with death and destruction and those bent on destroying, we get a man like Muir once in a while. Someone who dedicated his life to protecting our mountains and forests and wild life from exploitation and made them our inheritance.

John Muir didn’t always win. Much as he tried. He lost his last battle, when he failed to have Hetch Hetchy Valley, just outside Yosemite, placed under federal protection. The loss was too much to bear for America’s most famous naturalist. He died a year after the valley was dammed for a reservoir, in 1913, at the age of 76. 

John Muir

While he died a disappointed man, Muir left behind countless of natural treasures and inspired us to look under the surface, to “climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”  


“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks.” ~~ John Muir.


“Yosemite … is a place of transcendent beauty in the middle of what John Muir called the “Range of Light.” … Stirred by the music of Yosemite’s moving waters, the majesty of its granite faces, the lushness of its forests and meadows, the abundance of its animal life, the radiance of its mountain air, we remember how securely we are woven into this web of life we are.”

~~ Lorraine Anderson, in Yosemite Meditations


Images courtesy:,, buenaparklibrary




The Right Angle (Blogging U.)


As writers and bloggers we know how important a “hook” is. 

Our masterpieces can fall into the abyss without the right hook, the focus, to pull the reader in.  All effort and emotion output gone.  A small flaw destroying the beautiful whole.

What changes this? Practice, reading, dedication — to a point. However there are more tools, and the Blogging University offers one this month. A workshop-style course at the writer’s speed for bloggers/writers/anyone, really.

The first post discusses THE ANGLE — the precise way you choose to tell the story. What makes it attractive to readers inundated with a multitude of stories. THE ANGLE, maybe … 

In preparation, I slayed some inner demons — via a fiction piece rooted in a quasi-personal experience, as all tales are — and am offering a short part here. The angle is key, as is reader engagement.

Here it is, a humble offering from yours truly: 


 “I watched the mother’s one-arm hug, the quickness of the gesture, and wondered at a love that floods the heart only to drain like water from a tub. How did it feel? Seeing her son after a thirty-year absence.

The airport noise — announcements, hurried steps — nothing fell into any kind of sequence. The sight of Gage laughing nervously as he asked about her luggage, the flight, anything but what mattered unfolded like a fuzzy movie scene. Nothing fit the order, rogue little pieces of the world gone astray. One modicum of certainty in this unreliable life should be a mother’s constant love and presence. Shouldn’t it?

We made our way past a group of Chinese tourists documenting the big arrival to Los Angeles International Airport. I glanced back searching for the mothers. A woman ruffled a teenager’s hair; another pointed to a sign laughing with a young man.  Same as my mother’s laughter when sharing new discoveries. She laughed with all her heart. With her eyes. Her entire being.

The air smelled of stale humanity, odors that broke from the regular smells of the world. We rushed toward the exit, no luggage to be collected, only the bag Gage carried for his new-found mother who led our single file line toward the exit as if all life form depended on abandoning the rendezvous place. Maybe the smell affected her too. The chaos this reunion seemed to create in our delicate souls. Run. Maybe the world will rearrange itself out there.” 

~~~ Thank you for reading. Tell me, if you will, about your writing angle. Or anything you’d like to share.


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Book Trailer — Yakimali’s Gift by Linda Covella

A good movie trailer makes us want to see the movie. The same is true for a good book trailer — somewhat of a new medium for me, but certainly not a new publishing tool.

For that reason, I was excited to see the trailer for Yakimali’s Gift, a YA novel written by my friend Linda Covella.  (In 1775 Mexico, New Spain, Fernanda can’t seem to live up to her mother’s expectations. Half Spanish and half Pima Indian, she feels confined by the limited female roles of her culture…)

I came to know how talented a writer Linda is years ago, when we took a writing workshop together. Here is a quick look at her book through the trailer created by Tanya Watt.

For more, visit



I admire those for whom optimism comes naturally. I lean on the optimistic side myself but certainly have my moments of pessimism.

Still, it is optimism that gives me the will to write — among other things — because hope fuels the creative mind with enthusiasm. With energy.

That means creatives must be a bunch of optimists. Which is crazy, considering how self-doubting we are. But … if we didn’t embrace a sense of hope, if we didn’t believe the unimaginable was possible (email from editors, wonderful reviews), we would never put our work out there.

We’d never get out of bed. 

A good friend of mine recently described her life philosophy. She “always stays serene and knows everything will be alright.” She probably didn’t mean it to be a big revelation, but I thought: how great to have such “glass is half full” attitude all the time.

Yet part of me thinks optimism, like anything, is good in moderation. Sometimes, it can work against us, causing problems with its sunny sense of possibility. Hope, as I read somewhere, is not a very good plan. And perhaps too much of it makes a person seem naive, I don’t know.

Set me straight here, please.

I admit to times when the glass didn’t just look half empty, but downright void. Nothing there. Times when I wallowed in my misery and would have loved some company, thank you very much. 

I think my friend has worked hard at acquiring this attitude. I don’t think this is something she was born with (having known her long enough), but something she learned.

Yes, I believe optimism is learned more than genetic. Probably a matter of how we channel our positive energy (how’s that for a buzz term?). Especially when it’s easy to learn that life sucks when filled with pessimism.

What do you think? And how do you keep your optimism high?


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