31 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #7

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous questions: #1#2, #3, #4, #5, #6 


What are you most afraid of?

How does that fear affect you?
Does it stop you from doing anything important?
Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com.
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28 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #6

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous questions: #1#2, #3, #4, #5


How much do you like your home, your town (village, city, ...) and the country where you live?

What's keeping you there?

Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com.
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26 Jan 2011

Sound Health in 8 Steps and 15 Minutes.

Sound affects our lives, all the time. It is a constant stimulus, whether we are aware of it or not. As such, it has an effect on our brain and on our mental health, both positive and negative.

I wanted to share two videos by Julian Treasure, who is - besides a man with a great name - a sound adviser by trade. He is also an author and blogs at Sound Business.

The first video is a 7 minute talk about the effects of sound on our health.

If you are hooked by now and have another 6 minutes to spare, I can also recommend this presentation:

Now, go find a place with lots of WWB. It's good for you!
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24 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #5

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous questions: #1#2, #3, #4


If you only had 3 more months to live, would you continue doing what you are doing now?

What would you change?

Next question: #6

Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com.
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21 Jan 2011

Fantastic Landscapes: the Photography of Gary McParland.

The Fairy Ring - (c) Gary McParland

Good photographs are inspiring. They speak to our emotions, like good stories do.

I love taking pictures but I am not a photographer. I would like to be, but my heart and mind are set on writing. Instead of light and a camera, I have chosen words and a laptop (and paper and pens) as my tools.

And I am happy. Day by day I get to experience the joys and pains of learning my trade. I feel alive, perhaps more than ever. The more I read and write, the more I see what I can't do yet. But I improve, and the journey itself is exciting, exhilarating and rewarding. Most of the time.

Light & Legend - (c) Gary McParland
Deciding to be a writer has only increased my respect for people who have acquired skill and craftsmanship, regardless of what kind. From raising or educating our children to helping us sleep at night. From growing food to presenting it on a plate in the most beautiful and seductive way.

I love men and women who have a passion, and the desire and perseverance to learn their craft and improve. Their work has a soul. It speaks to our emotions, tells us stories and inspires us to come up with our own.
The Poisoned Glen - (c) Gary McParland
One of my most recent discoveries is photographer Gary McParland. When I saw his picture 'The Fairy Ring' (see above), I was smitten. My mind took flight. I wanted to write stories and create characters to populate those fantastic landscapes.

What I especially like about his pictures, besides the great choice of scenery, is that he manages to capture not just the beauty and wonder, but also the timeless elemental power of our surroundings.

Based in Northern Ireland, most of the landscapes Gary photographs are situated there, in Ireland, Scotland and the UK. I also really like his nature close-ups, and the boats/wrecks.

His style of photography evokes a fantasy atmosphere, but don't expect candied new-age imagery with purple moons and elves riding unicorns. Instead, he presents the raw, natural strength in nature and interprets it in a full spectrum of emotions that feels very authentic to me.  

Morning Mist - (c) Gary McParland
Sometimes his photographs are gentle and dreamy, like a misty coastal morning or filtered sunlight in an autumn forest; sometimes they are fierce reminders of how fleeting and mortal we are, like ever-changing waves pounding on unyielding rocks. 

His landscapes are no backdrops for frail, winged fairies and pastel butterflies. They inspire to create characters that live, breathe and survive. The fairies who live here bite and laugh and love and fight to preserve what's theirs. These are lands where humans live with dragons. The fire-breathing kind.

I tip my hat to Gary McParland's skill in capturing atmosphere in light, and I can only admire the dedication and the patience it must have taken to create these works.

Thank you, Gary, for the wonderful images and your kind photo permission!

Dunluce Castle at Twilight - (c) Gary McParland

For more information and images, visit http://garymcparland.1x.com/ or http://www.garymcparland.com/ 

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17 Jan 2011

Writing and the Power of Vulnerability.

I have just sent out the reworked first 4 chapters of my manuscript to a select number of betareaders.

These are people whom I love and trust, who all have a particular outlook on different aspects of my writing and who I know will give me honest and useful feedback. They are aware of how writing is a craft I will forever be learning. I can be (quite) sure none of them will think any less of me when they spot the awful bits in my writing and the flaws in my thinking. Still, every time I send something out, I have to call on a deep layer of courage to get myself to click that 'send' button.

Of course, being me, I had to dig my teeth into that feeling. Find out about its nature and its origins. I didn't have to look far. I've written about perfection before, I've hinted at the human fear of 'not being good enough', of what could come back at you when you put yourself out there.

As if by cosmic accident, I found this video a few days ago. It's a TED talk by Brene Brown, a professor at the University of Houston, Texas, who has spent the past 10 years researching courage, authenticity, vulnerability and shame.

Some of what she says is probably (MBTI-) J stuff (the measuring stick, etc.), which I can only relate to from a distance, being far out on the Perceiving scale. But for the most part, what she talked about was very recognisable. And insightful. Take out the banana nut muffins and stuff in dark, Belgian chocolate, and we're talking very, very recognisable.

The talk is about 20 minutes long and well worth that time. As a bonus, Brene is an excellent speaker with a great sense of humour.

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13 Jan 2011

Life stories - the Interviews. Question #4

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous questions: #1#2, #3


Are you being a good friend to yourself?

Are you taking care of your body, heart, mind, soul and all the parts of yourself you consider important? (Yes, including those!)

Next questions: #5, #6

Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com.
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11 Jan 2011

Poem: 'Fire and Ice' by Robert Frost

Photo credit: Olivier Gruenewald. Wild Wonders of Europe

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Photo credit: Sven Zacek. Wild Wonders of Europe

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9 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #3

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous questions: #1#2


Which 'little' things in life make you happy?

Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com

Next questions: #4#5, #6
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8 Jan 2011

A Tale of Life, Death, Hunger and Love: Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games. A Review.

I have just resurfaced after burying myself in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. I had downloaded the first sample to my Kindle a while ago, but I needed to create a stretch of free, uninterrupted time to bite into it. And wow, did that bite turn into a binge!

Book 1 - cover
Up until half an hour ago, the outside world no longer existed. For a few days, I've co-inhabited the head of Katniss Everdeen, a mature sixteen-year-old, looking at a world that could have been ours. Or might become ours, one day. It's the tale of a resourceful girl in extraordinary circumstances, playing the cards she's been dealt and forced to face the consequences of her actions and decisions.

I don't want to go further into the story here; there are plenty of sources out there that do. What I do want to share is why I loved it so much.

First of all, Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer. These three were the first of her works I've ever read, but the Underland Chronicles are next on my list. It will be hard to meet my current expectations, but even if they're only half as good as the Hunger Games trilogy, it still won't be a waste of time to read those. All five of them.

Lately, with my own novel in the stage it's in, I've found it difficult to read other people's work without having my inner editor jump in, pointing out style, tricks, show vs. tell, great or poor dialogue and much more. I was starting to fear I had lost the ability to submerge myself in other writers' worlds, new stories and characters' lives.

Book 2 - cover
I couldn't have been further from the truth. The Hunger Games grabbed me from the first few pages and sucked me in, right until the end of Mockingjay. Along the way I laughed and cried, I ached and wondered, I felt empowered and enraged.

There are so many layers to these novels I can't even begin to describe. But of course I will try.

In these stories, Suzanne Collins captures human nature's paradoxes unlike any author I've read in a long time. She reveals our weaknesses and strengths, our courage and cowardice, the good and evil we are all capable of, especially when it affects the ones we love. Or hate.

These dilemmas emerge in a world where poverty, political corruption, brutality and violence reign. But we don't have to look far to find, interwoven, the importance of love, family, loyalty and hope.

Book 3: cover
I was very impressed with the wisdom the author shares and and the insights she provokes, without waving the belittling finger I so dislike (possibly because I'm not entirely unguilty of it myself.)

Suzanne Collins created a bunch of amazing characters here. I love how they come to life in her words, and how real they feel. Some of them I adore, others I despise, still others I pity. But hardly any don't affect me at all. And even in those cases, I feel that's exactly what the author intended. That might not be true, but the mere fact that she has me believe it, proves to me what an extraordinary writer and storyteller she is.

If you haven't read the novels yet, I can only recommend them. If you have, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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5 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #2

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.
Previous question: #1


What's the craziest thing you've done so far?
How crazy is it?

Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com

Next questions: #3, #4#5, #6
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3 Jan 2011

Life Stories - the Interviews. Question #1

This post is part of the series: 'Life Stories - the Interviews'.


Have you made a real difference
in anyone's life?
When? Where? How?

Next questions: #2#3, #4#5, #6
Tell us your story in the comments below, or via email to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com
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Life Stories - the Interviews. Intro.

Yesterday I wrote an article about life stories. Last month I posted a list of questions. Now let us put the two together and take the next step.

I happen to believe that all life stories are interesting, as long as you take the time to look, listen and ask the right questions. Well, all through January, I'll be here, eyes and ears wide open, with plenty of questions to ask.

Dear readers, I am going to interview you!

Hopefully, my questions will trigger your stories and inspire you to share them with the rest of us. In bite-size chunks, revealing as much or as little about yourself as you feel comfortable with.

What stories?

What do we want to read? Anything that is significant to you. From short anecdotes to grand tales of Life, Love and Learning. Experiences that taught you something invaluable, that made you smile or cry your heart out. From life's strange coincidences to the happiest day of your life. We would love to read about it.

How will this work?
  • Every couple of days I will post interview questions
  • Pick one (or more) about which you have something to tell
  • Post your answer, i.e. your story, in the comments (short), or email it to KC [at] kcwoolf [dot] com (for the longer ones)
  • Of the ones that are emailed, I'll make a selection and post paragraphs or summaries here.
I also want to invite you to reply to other people's stories, to reach out and connect. Often, when we're dealing with life, we feel like we're on our own. Let's show there are more of 'us' than we think!

Now, on to QUESTION #1...
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2 Jan 2011

What's Your Story?

Old Couple
Photo credit: Ryan Morrison

As an assignment for a psychology class I once took, a group of us had to interview couples over 65 about their life story. It was part of research on Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, and looked for levels of ego integrity versus despair during the later stages of life.

I have to admit I was apprehensive. I expected we would be setting ourselves up for a few long afternoons that would be either awkward or boring.

But the assignment had to be done. A few weeks later, on a chilly day in October, we went on our way, armed with a questionnaire and a long list of interview questions that ranged from vaguely personal to downright intrusive.

We had an appointment with a retired baker and his wife. Our contact had assured us they were willing, and talkative by nature. On top of that, there would be cake. With any luck, by the time we got to the questions about their sex life, we'd be on a sugar high.

I couldn't have been more wrong, at least about the interview. (The cake was gorgeous.) They welcomed us with open arms and we met two people who had been together for nearly fifty years and held on, through everything life had thrown at them, including running a business together. They were eager to share their story with us - even the parts they didn't want on tape.

The man was an introvert. He'd been happy as a baker, hiding between sacks of flour, hard labour and, much later, machines. His wife - the vocal half of the couple - thrived in the shop. It wasn't long before she knew the whole neighbourhood, weaving her threads into the social fabric, one piece of well-meaning advice at a time.

They had raised three sons together, who in turn had fathered several children. The grandchildren still visited most weekends.

But the story we were told wasn't all saccharine. There had been illness and a baby lost at birth. We could feel the overwhelming pride they took in their three healthy sons, and the sense of failure when one of them had run off with his brother's fiancee. They were content with their relative health, but she worried if he would manage, in case she'd die first.

They counted their blessings, the streaks of luck and those they had worked hard for. Still, awareness dawned how soon they would have to leave it all behind.

Those mandatory afternoons, spent with 'our' couple, changed something in me. They helped me understand how fragile we are, yet how resilient. Life takes us through twists and turns and what doesn't kill us really makes us stronger. Our ability to learn and adapt is virtually inexhaustible.

On that winding road from birth to death, we spin the stories of our lives. And every single one of these stories is interesting. How could they not be?

  • A good story needs a protagonist. - Like you!
  • A good protagonist needs hopes, dreams and desires. - What are yours?
  • To make the story interesting, add plenty of conflict. - Which hurdles are you facing?
  • Build up tension. - Where will you go from here?
  • At the end of the story, the character has changed. - Who will you become?
We are not just living our lives. We are creating our own life stories.

With all the elements in place, each of these stories is interesting, each person a fascinating creature. All we need is the time and the intent to look, ask the right questions and listen.
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