Category Archives: Discoveries

My favorite story collections

I read many story collections in my life. Many of them were very good and enjoyable to read. But there are only two I could name by their titles and which are the first to pop into my mind when speaking of inspiring stories. These are Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment and Being Here…Too: Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment by Ariel & Shya Kane.

In fact, reading of the first book ignited a turn in my life I have never thought would be possible. I might not have dared to write books or anything else as daring, have I not read that book and all other books by Ariel and Shya Kane, listened to their radio shows and participated in their live seminars.

I first saw Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment when an online retailer generated a recommendation based on my previous orders of self-help and motivational books. I read many self-help books before and still felt lost. So after buying and receiving Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment, I resisted reading it for almost two years. But my sight kept being captured by the beautiful butterfly on its cover, and even by its spine when I tucked it between the other books on one of my bookshelves.

At some point, I surrendered and read it. I learned about a unique approach called Instantaneous Transformation developed by Ariel and Shya Kane. And with time, I learned and experienced the three revealing principles of this approach.

First, I realized that if I resisted something or tried to get rid of something – a thought, a habit, a person, a task, a book (see above 🙂 ) or anything else – I didn’t get rid of it at all. This person or thing just kept on sticking around, dominated my life and often became overwhelming.

Then, I learned that I couldn’t be anywhere else or anyone else at any given moment – I could only be who and how I was (or wasn’t), whether I liked it or not. And whether I judged my situation or not.

Finally, there was the Kanes’ third principle – anything that I allowed to be exactly as it was without judging or trying to change it, completed itself in an instant.

As I read Ariel and Shya’s books and articles, listened to their Being Here internet radio show, and participated in their live seminars, I experienced what it meant to let myself and others be just as we were. I discovered how to breathe and savor my life moment by moment, completely and freely. I came to understand what I truly wanted, what was my heart’s desire.

Yes, reading Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment was the moment when this beautiful journey I am now on began. It was a journey of curiosity about what was happening at any given moment of now and what could happen if I surrendered to my wishes and did what my heart called me to do, instead of what I thought others wanted me to do.

As I practiced transformation, being in the moment, I discovered again and again that kindness and honesty were mutually inclusive, not exclusive. That allowed me to start observing myself non-judgmentally, in my life and also in the process of writing, teaching, and consulting.

I was delighted when I heard of the successor of one of my all time favorite books and of its concept. Being Here…Too: Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment is unique because the stories in it relate the magic of being here. These true stories were written by fantastic people of various walks of life, background and beliefs.

If I try to summarize the new book in three words, then these will be: Inspiring, empowering, brilliant. (You can read my full review of this book here.)

I strongly recommend reading and re-reading both books. You will laugh, smile, feel inspired, uplifted, utterly well in yourself and discover each time some new aspect of every story, which you didn’t notice during the previous read. They are that multidimensional!

#transformationmadeeasy #arielandshyakane #shortstory #truestories #inspiration #motivation #compassion #beinghere

Every New Book is the First One

I used to think that if not writing itself then at least the rest of the process of bringing a book into the world will become more and more routine with each new book.

But it doesn’t look like that at all. I am working on my books nine, ten and eleven these days and I must say the work on them differs very much from those before and between each other.

One of the books I work on this year, and which is being edited by a professional editor right now, took me four months to write and one whole year to revise it.

It is not my first non-fiction book and not my first work where I made research, contemplations, and developed concepts. However, every step in creating this book, both writing, and editing felt like it was the very first one. Every bit of the process requested me to think out of the box, made me feel creatively uncomfortable, and made me exclaim, “It was never that way before!”

The paradox of wishing some calm of known, of a routine and at the same time longing for new and exciting accompanies me every time I work on my books.

I do feel challenged and feel an urge to complain. But when I slow down and look honestly at what is happening, I don’t want the whole process to occur in any other way.

I want each book to be new and exciting. In truth, I want it to be unknown, however scary this process might be.

And as long as I want it this way, I guesstimate that it will be like that.

What about you and your writing projects? Does each of them surprise you in any way? If yes, then how? If no, did you look close enough? Or non-judgmentally enough?

Picture: My children never stop surprising me. Here is my sweet little girl at the past New Year’s Eve party, claiming that the hat she was wearing was a bike helmet.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

An interview: My first appearance on YouTube

At least I think it was my first one. I don’t know if I appeared on the background of somebody else’s video or if someone found funny and filmed as I frantically tried on a bus trip to finish a sentence of a story I am currently writing, while at the same time preparing to get out of the bus. The latter happened just yesterday. But I don’t think I was filmed. Phew!

But the interview I want to tell you about was intended. It was made in connection with the author talk I gave at the SGS School of Creative Writing, at Trekanten Bibliotek og Kulturhus here in Aalborg, on the 2nd of March.

Samuel Mork Bednarz, or Sam, is a student at the SGS and he is also a part of the SGS Social Media Team, where I also participate.

Sam is responsible for the SGS podcast, and currently he is taking interviews with the authors giving author talks at and for the SGS.

I have given several interviews up to this point (this interview took place about a week before the author talk), two of which were recorded on audio.

It was fun to observe myself, the feelings and thoughts generated by these experiences. During the first interview I felt so unusually that I smiled shyly at the recording smart-hone and said “Thank you!” at and to it before answering the first question by the interviewer.

The interview with Sam was filmed and I watched it last night for the first time. Again managing to observe myself non-judgmentally while watching.

Some automatic thoughts judging my appearance did appear but they were short and fleeting. Instead I had fun watching this person on the computer screen, so differently looking and sounding from what I know when I look in the mirror or hear myself talk. I watched her with curiosity finding the things she said so new, and also laughing along with her and the interviewing Sam.

This experience was so strikingly different from that many years ago in Germany as I watched myself on TV after being filmed in our cleanroom at the Institute of High Frequency Electronics of the Technical University Darmstadt. At that time I had assimilated the cliché that nobody liked watching him- or herself on TV. I followed this tradition and said to anyone who would listen how terribly I looked on the screen, while I secretly enjoyed when people objected. At some point they stopped objecting and listening to my ever returning moans about how bad I was. So at the end I was left with a feeling of having failed and not have done enough.

Now I realize that I was thrilled to see myself on the screen. I looked so different. And yes, surprising.

I am glad that I had this epiphany at this point of my life when my children are small, so that I convey to them these moments of being OK with myself and just enjoying all the surprises my life and my true self bring with them.

I wish you all happy self-discoveries and fun watching my first interview on YouTube.

 

Cheerleading for Writers: D – Descriptions

This will be another tale about labelling.

I used to think all descriptions longer than one line were boring. In the books I read, I longed to skip them, at the same time making myself to read them and victimizing myself that I had to do this.

In writing I tried to skip them too. And more than that, an idea formed, I am not able to write descriptions.

Then two things happened. First one was with reading descriptions.

This is what I have written almost two years ago in a blog post called “A discovery about descriptions”.

 

One of the things I used to dislike in books were long descriptions. Even descriptions by such masters as Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen made me sometimes become quite impatient and my brain thinking, “When will the story continue?”

I am sure this just shows my impatience at those moments, not the lack of virtue of the pieces I read. But still, these experiences made me afraid writing descriptions as soon as I started writing fiction myself.

And then several months ago I have read “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert and became completely dumbfounded. This book is full of descriptions! And many of them where pages and pages long. How could this be?

Last week I read an article in Writer’s Digest from January 2014 by Elizabeth Sims. The title of the article is “Miscalculations and Missteps”. And there in Section 6 named “The Great Undescribed”, I found the following:

Take a risk and go long. The value of a relatively long description is that it draws your readers deeper into the scene. The worry is that you’ll bore them. But if you do a good job you’ll engross them. Really getting into a description is one of the most fun things you can do as an author. Here’s the trick: Get going on a description with the attitude of discovering, not informing. In this zone, you’re not writing to tell readers stuff you already know – rather, you are writing to discover and experience the scene right alongside them.”

This passage revealed the secret of the SOAT (as Elizabeth Gilbert calls her book), which was hidden for me. SOAT is full of descriptions, but each description is full of discoveries: of love, of own body, of lust, of science, of secrets of universe and its origins and many more. The whole book is continuous discovery. And you can hear this wonder in the voice of the narrator, who mirrors the wonder the main character, Alma Whittaker, experiences through her journey.

The book covers the period of time of more than 50 years! This again goes against the advice I learned: “The shorter the period of time your story takes place the better. Backstory can go further back, but the plot itself should unfold in a short period of time. Otherwise, you will bore the reader.” But SOAT proves this advice completely wrong. It starts with Alma’s birth and finishes with her death.

But even at her death, Alma was discovering. As the Amazon review of SOAT says, Alma is “the insatiably curious“. And I became more and more curious with every sentence I read.

I am very grateful to both Elizabeths (Gilbert and Sims) for lifting my fear from descriptions, for showing me that I can love long descriptions and wish for more, and for giving me a great clue of recognizing a really good one.

And all this led me to a thought which applies to everything: One of the clues to having fun, along with being in the moment, is to be in a constant discovery mode, walking through life “with an open mouth” and being in awe of everything around and inside ourselves.

 

Fast forward to the second half of 2015. By now I was sure there were brilliant descriptions that could captivate me. So I started approaching each book with curiosity to both dialogs and descriptions. But still there was a problem. I didn’t believe I was capable to write good descriptions, not to mention the brilliant ones.

Then one evening I went to a meeting of the writer’s club, I am a part of, here in Aalborg. I didn’t manage to write something complete new for that particular evening, therefore I took with me chapter 1 of a story I started posting on-line shortly before.

This story, which is growing now into a novelette, is called “Nothing is As it Seems”. It came to life after I watched my writing teacher and friend Menna van Praag sharing her one-minute writing class with an idea to develop a story, which starts with the first paragraph of her best-selling book “The House at the End of Hope Street”. You can find the full account of this inspiration here.

So, I sit there in a comfortable arm-chair in a cosy atmosphere of the living room of two of our writing club members and read this first chapter. And as I read it, I realize, The chapter is full of descriptions. And they are good!

I finished reading and looked up with still unprocessed shock of this discovery. I can write good descriptions?!

The feedback from my fellow writers added to the shock. They liked the chapter too. The only correction made was to the way I pronounced the word “wrapped”. My thoughts went wild. Really? Only this? And all the rest is good?

Then I was pointed out the especially good parts of it. And I had to agree. They were good and I liked reading them aloud.

Of course, there are still places I could tweak here and there, and I will do this before sending the whole story to my editor, but this piece is something I wouldn’t be not ashamed to read out loud again.

My advice here to you, dear writer, whether you have problems with descriptions or not, watch out for those labels you give yourself, your writing, your reading abilities, and anything you do. Observe them, lift their edges and peek underneath. You might discover that those labels are long outdated, and might not have been true all along.

At this point I would like to tell you one of my favourite jokes. A man is asked whether he can play a violin. His answer is, “I don’t know. I’ve never tried!”

So approach everything with this attitude. Don’t say, you can’t do something, until you try, and try again. You might discover that you can, that you are very good at it, and that you enjoy doing it.

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Picture: beautiful tulips I got along with purple roses from my mother and my sister at my author talk last week.

How a poster made my day

This is what happened last week. I picked Niklas from kindergarten and we took a bus to go home. Niklas was happy to see that his favourite seats right behind the driver’s cabin were free.

As soon as we set down Niklas looked up and saw a poster with speech balloons all over it, similar to the one we discovered a month before, where each of the balloons were of bright and different colour. Niklas asked me to read the text on the poster. As I read, we discovered that again all of the speech balloons, except one, had a phrase staring with Thank you.

“Thank you that you reduced the volume of the music you listen to. It is a great style!”

“Thank you for helping the woman with the stroller. It is very kind of you!”

“Thank you that you greeted the driver when you entered. It’s a great style!”

And so on.

The special one of the balloons had the following text:
“This is for you, who is on your way to a job interview. We cross fingers for you!”

I couldn’t stop a big smile widening my face.

And then I recalled the special speech balloon from the poster Niklas and I saw a month before. “This is for you, who is coming from the hairdresser’s. You look great!”

I reminded Niklas of that one and we both grinned. Right after that Niklas asked me to read all of the text on the poster again.

Picture: Niklas and I share the love for buses. This picture was taken in Cambridge last year in front of a double decker. We were thrilled to discovered that Niklas’s toy bus had the same number as the bus we saw on the street we were walking.

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P.S. The story “Nothing is Like it Seems”, which I started posting last week, will be continued next week. I will be posting this story bi-weekly until it finds its end.