Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group - December

I'm feeling more insecure than I have in a long time. I've written for more than 30 years, but I've never put together an anthology before. Never had to decide what goes in, what doesn't. Never had to tell someone their writing needs work.

I made all these decisions, then sent the chosen pieces to the editor I've worked with for years. I respect his opinions and advice and suggestions. He sent me his notes and I missed the part that said they were for my eyes only and proceeded to send the notes to the authors. Bad bad bad on my part. I'm pretty sure I told the authors I would be hiring an editor, so I thought they'd be prepared for critiques after I told them their piece was accepted. I wasn't prepared for the editor's response to some of them and I totally mishandled how to maneuver through this part of the process.

Lessons Learned:
1. Never try to do work like this when you are in pain - I threw my back out last week and can hardly move, so I don't think I'm thinking too clearly. Because clearly, if I was, I would not have made such a stupid mistake.
2. Before doing anything, pause. Take a breath. Make sure what you're about to do is for the highest good of all concerned. Then find loving, gentle ways of expressing what you need to express.
3. Understand that when you tackle a project that you've never done before, there is a learning curve and you need to be gentle with yourself.
4. Trust that everything happens for a reason. As hard as things have been in my life, I've always come through and learned something important.

SIGH!

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, November 18, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm going to spend Thanksgiving with one of my dearest friends, a sister of the heart. I crave the company of people with love and kindness in their hearts. I crave a respite from the hate and fear and turmoil of this election cycle and the impact of the result. I feel body-slammed and am needing to disengage from actively listening to and reading about what's going to happen.

Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and may there be peace in your hearts.
Blessings
Karen

Thursday, November 3, 2016

STILL ME AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

After yesterday's ISWG, several people suggested I re-post my invitation to submit to my anthology, "Still Me After All These Years." I thought it was a good idea, so hear it is again. I've completely let go of any deadline at this point, so if you are interested in the topic and want to give it a go, please do so. And if anyone is inclined to repost this in their blog, I would be immensely grateful. Thank you!

SUBJECT: An anthology about aging—want to help?

I’m writing today to talk about a project close to my heart and to see if you feel called to participate.

For those who don’t know me, I retired from a 30+ year career in marketing and public relations in 1999 to write full time. Since then, I have published a variety of non-fiction articles, a memoir, and most recently, a novel.

I’ve thought about writing something on aging for the past 10 years. I’m a sixty-something baby boomer who cared for both my Dad and my mother-in-law. I also helped two older friends who’ve since passed away. My friends and I have had many discussions about growing older and dying and about how we want to move through this process with grace and dignity. But other projects took precedence and I never got clarity on what this aging project should be. Until now.

Some time ago, my friend Ellie, 88 years young, said to me, “I don’t see ‘me’ anymore when I look in the mirror.”

“Who do you see?” I asked.

“An old lady who walks with a walker or a cane.”

“But, you’re still you. The walker doesn’t define you.”

“Yes, but it’s the first thing others see,” she said.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that conversation. Then, while on a writing retreat with my friend, Wendy, inspiration came: Why not make this an anthology? How much wiser and richer it could be if others shared their experiences of this journey called aging. Several days later I heard Paul Simon’s song “Still Crazy After All These Years” on the radio. Boom—there was the title: Still Me After All These Years.

That conversation with Ellie gave me the theme. I think an anthology such as this could speak about aging in a unique and fascinating way—through the eyes of those going through it. It will be about the challenges and opportunities that come when you reach that point in life where mortality is a more imminent reality. About how aging changes you, or doesn’t. How it impacts your life, both positively and negatively. Does your way of thinking change? What about your behavior? Have priorities shifted? Do you think about dying? Do you hate the way you look? These are just some of the topics I’d like to see included. 

I am seeking essays from adults 50 and above. If you’d like to participate but can’t write for some reason, I would be happy to interview you. Whatever the age of our readers, hopefully they’ll find a kernel of wisdom that touches their hearts.

At this point I’m not sure whether I will seek traditional publishing or self-publish. The traditional route could take years and well, I’m not sure I want to wait that long. At any rate, this is probably a good time to mention that there will be no fee paid for submissions. I will review entries myself, choosing and editing selections for inclusion. If you decide to submit, I can’t promise that your work will be included, but I can assure you that your name will be listed in the acknowledgements for helping to make this project possible.

If you are intrigued and think you might like to participate, please drop me a line and I will provide submission guidelines and more information on this process and how it will work.

So, if you have something to share regarding your experience of aging, please let me know as soon as possible. Of course I’d be happy to answer your questions in the meantime.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Karen

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Insecure Writers Support Group - November

Hi. Back from vacation and happy to participate in this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brainchild of Alex (aka the Ninja Captain). Please visit Alex for all the details about joining our wonderful group.www.alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com

I'm not insecure. I'm disappointed. Many of you know I'm working on an anthology about aging. Perhaps the subject matter is too difficult to handle in terms of personal essays. I don't know the reasons, but 46 people enthusiastically said they wanted to contribute to the anthology and I've only received 10 essays I can use. One person wrote a wonderful essay, but it needed some work and they weren't able to fit that into their schedule. One essay I just couldn't use. But still, that's 30 something folks that said yes and I never heard from them. As the deadline passed, I wrote to those I had contact info from, and some said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I just can't do it now." I'm fine with that. I once wrote an Op Ed piece that appeared in The Oregonian about the importance of saying "No." Whether folks are afraid of confrontation, don't want to hurt peoples' feelings, aren't organized enough to follow through on what they say they're going to do, whatever the reason, I wish we could learn to close the loop with each other. Honestly, I won't be upset if you tell me "No." But tell me something. If I'm left hanging, I have to decide, well, do I try to follow up with these people, do I just let it go...did I do something wrong?

The essays I've received tell me I've chosen an important subject to tackle. Yes it's hard to think about what's happening to our bodies and our minds as we age. But denying or pretending it won't happen to us isn't particularly good for us. I don't want to force people to think about this. I guess I thought if someone agreed to write about it, they were already thinking about it and interested in sharing those thoughts with others.

Okay, I'm done with my rant. Sorry about that. Just had to get it off my chest. So, if you are one of those who told me you wanted to write an essay and already asked for submission guidelines, please let me know if you still want to participate. I've let go of the deadline. It was manufactured by me anyway. I really want this anthology to happen because there's so much wisdom in the few essays I've  received. I know there's so much more out there.

If you''re new to this blog and are interested, please email me at kandgwalker@comcast.net and I'll give you all the scoop you need about the project.

Until next time,
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, October 28, 2016

Please welcome Bish Denham

Thanks for letting me lurk on your blog, Karen! Today I’m going to share about one of first and most *successful* slave revolts to take place in New World.

1733 Was a Very Bad Year. There were 109 plantations on the tiny island of St. John in the U. S. Virgin Islands. The population was 208 whites and 1,087 blacks.

To supplement the food staples supplied by plantation owners (rice, flour, corn flour, and such) slaves were given plots of land on which to cultivate vegetables like okra, pigeon peas, and squash. They had to work their gardens after they had labored all day, and sometimes into the night. What meat they ate might have come from the sea or the occasional goat or sheep. Rarer, there might have been pork. Rarer still, beef. In good years, the slaves might have eaten quite well.

But like I said, 1733 was a very bad year. Early on there was a plague of insects (probably grasshoppers) which ate up crops. This was followed by a terrible drought and two hurricanes. These natural disasters led to hunger and deprivation, which led to unrest. Then, in September, an extremely harsh slave code was adopted, by which slaves could be punished in the most severe ways (hand, foot, ear, tongue amputations, terrible beatings, torture etc) for different infractions.

Among the 1,087 slaves, were a group of Africans call the Amina, a fiercely proud and intelligent people who had, in their homeland, been royals and slave owners themselves. It was they who carefully planned the revolt. For days before the first attack, drums could be heard across the island beating out messages. Then they went silent.

In the early dawn hours on November 23, 1733, a group of men, armed with cane knives, attacked the small fort in Coral Bay, killing six of the seven men garrisoned there.



The ruins of Frederiks Fort at Fortsberg at Coral Bay, St. John, where the revolt began. (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHABS_Frederiks_Fort_St_John_USVI.jpg)

The seventh man escaped and was able to get to St. Thomas to tell authorities what was happening. For six months the Amina held the island. Their goal was to take the island for themselves, run the plantations, and become independent. But it was not to be. The Danes, unable to capture or kill the rebels, eventually called in the French army from Marinique, which included among the 200 men, some Swiss and an extra 34 “free Negros.” Between the 23rd of April and the end of May, 1734, the rebels were beaten back. Those who did not surrender, which was most of them, chose instead to commit suicide. Those who did surrender, or were captured, were most horribly executed through torture with hot pincers, being burned at the stake, sawed in half, or having hands and heads cut off.

In the end between 30 and 40 whites were killed and 35 sugar plantations and other buildings were “pillaged and burned to the ground.” It made the Danish plantation owners uneasy, caused them to look over their shoulders, as it were.

Today the revolt marks the first step in a long struggle for human freedom which eventually led to the slaves, through their own efforts, winning emancipation in 1848. It is unique in that emancipation wasn’t given to them, as England gave freedom to their slaves. Nor was a war fought for them, as in the case of the American Civil War. It makes for a certain sense of independence and self-respect which Virgin Islanders wear with pride.
***
Although the slave revolt plays no part in my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, the violence and degradation of slavery does. In this excerpt, Sam and her best friend Nick come face to face with the brutality when they discover how the ghost that’s been haunting them, was killed.

Excerpt
He (the slave owner) has Ersgumé dragged out of the house, chained to a pole, and whipped until his back is raw and bloody. I cringe, remembering what I saw at the quarry; him kneeling, blood dripping from his shoulders, and the drops hissing as they hit the ground.

It’s getting hard for me to focus…. His suffering is more than I can take, and I want to turn away, but I’m locked in the waters of the bowl, and can’t shift my gaze away.

Bloody and broken, Ersgumé is half-carried, half-dragged between two other slaves. The white man leads the way. Slaves line the path. They’re keening and reaching out their hands wanting to touch Ersgumé one last time.

They take him to where the slaves live, crowded together in tiny stone huts. Near one of them is a dried up well. The white man orders the slaves carrying Ersgumé to throw him into the well. His pistol is drawn. They could refuse and overpower the white man, even run away, but they realize it’s useless. In time they’d be found and punished. There’s nothing they can do except obey him, even when ordered to throw dirt and rocks into the well.

Ersgumé is buried alive.

And here's the scoop about Bish's new novel.



Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:



About the Author

Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts, at www.http:/bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.com.
She can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BishDenham/Author
Twitter @BishDenham