Sunday, February 24, 2013

Birthing an Elephant—I mean Novel!

I am pleased to introduce you to Carol Fragale Brill. She is author to the recently released novel Peace by Piece. I for one love hearing about an author's journey from idea to published novel. Read and find out how Carol did it. I just bought her novel and can't wait to start reading!

Carol Fragale Brill

Years ago, there was a poster on the conference room wall where I worked that jokingly referred to birthing an elephant. Now, it’s been over 20 years so I am paraphrasing, but it went something like, “Working here is like birthing an elephant, it takes months and months, is accompanied by a herd of screeching and grumbling, and often creates a huge mess.”

Lately, I’ve wondered if the author of that quote was a novelist—or more specifically, a novelist trying to get the fruits of their elephantine labor published.

When I started writing Peace by Piece about 15 years ago, I had no idea how amazing and challenging a journey writing a novel would be. To say there have been ups and downs is an understatement.

On the up side—there was the thrill of reaching “The End” of Peace by Piece the first time, over 10 years ago, and (on the down side) naively thinking it was done! On the up side: the first time an agent offered me representation—followed by her retirement from agenting a few months later with my manuscript still in her unsold pile—a decidedly, gut wrenching down!

Over the years, there have been times that both my writing and ego were shredded by other writers offering “supportive” critique. Like the time a trusted mentor told me I was trying too hard to sound literary, should scrap the 100+ plus pages I had written except for a few sentences, and start my novel again. “OUCH.” The biggest downer after reflection was that he was right. I cut and pasted that one salvageable paragraph, and started over from scratch.

There were also remarkable highs—the first time a piece I wrote placed at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, the time readers selected my short story as a favorite for The Philadelphia Stories Anthology, when Homerun Clara, the tribute essay about my mom was accepted on the first submission, being named first runner-up in a Poets and Writers contest—clearly my most prestigious recognition rejection to date.

I don’t share this with you just to whine, or brag, or discourage writers from writing, or others from following their passion. What I have learned on this journey is priceless, and goes far beyond learning writing craft. I have learned about me and my resilience and perseverance and what I am willing to risk in order to follow my dream.

And I share it to remind myself and others that like every mother elephant has learned, the mess, and screeching, and woe melt away the first time you see your name on your novel’s cover and cradle your book proof in your hands.

So what about you? What ups and down are you willing to bear to see your dream come true?
What is Peace by Piece about?
Front Cover
Peace by Piece
Congrtulations Carol!
Six years after fleeing college and Thomas’s betrayal, Maggie has nearly given up on love. Enter Izzie, a motherless eight year old, and every maternal instinct kicks-in. There is no first love thrill with Izzie's dad, but Maggie lets herself believe loving Izzie will be enough to finally lock Thomas out of her heart.

            Dealing with unshakable first love, family, relationships, the difficulties of being a step-partent--all overshadowed by the curse of anorexia and bulimia--Peace by Piece is ultimately about hope and second chances.


Carol Fragale Brill’s novel, Peace by Piece is available at:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kindness is the Answer According to Five Experts

As a speech-language pathologist who does evaluations for a large school district, I travel quite a bit during my work day. I am greeted by a variety of things as I enter different buildings. Perhaps, a congenial receptionist, the funky smell of cafeteria food, students walking through the hall in a straight line with a proud teacher leading them, music from the auditorium, shouts from the gymnasium. Last week I entered a middle school and was welcomed by this:

Twenty six acts of kindness surrounded by peaceful doves in remembrance of the the lives lost at Sandy Hill Elementary School. I stopped for a moment and read each one. Here are a few examples:


  I felt warm inside and smiled as I perused each student's act of kindness. When I was through, I couldn't help but imagine being greeted by the opposite of these peaceful messages—a guard with a gun in his hand, which is what is being proposed by some to help prevent tragic events like the incident in Newtown, CT. It made me feel sad and nervous—not a planned reaction, just a reaction. I know violence on our planet is increasing. I know we as a society need to do our best to protect innocent people from harm, but is adding more guns to the world the answer, or will it make the problem worse?

My opinion is less is best. Has that solution been proven to work? When gun violence was on the rise in Australia, the government implemented tougher gun control laws, and shootings decreased by sixty per cent. Just saying. The facts are the facts.

Is gun control the true answer? If I knew, I'm sure I'd be featured on the cover of Time Magazine and headlining The Today Show. Having a strong security system and planned emergency responses are certainly important. It may be time to ban extremely violent video games that some kids spend hours a day playing. It's plain common sense to treat mentally ill individuals with psychiatric care and counseling, but not allow them to purchase guns. And what about stronger curriculums in kindness both at school and at home? Could being consciously kinder to each other really make a difference in decreasing violent crimes? Let's see what some experts have to say:

" Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. The rest will be given."—Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"Since God chose you to be the holy people, he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."—Colossians 3:12

"A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe."—Wayne Dyer

"When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed."—Chaang Tzu

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Being kind isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. How about thinking about a difficult or confrontational situation you're in? What is the kindest response you could choose? And how might that affect the outcome?"—Dali Lama

There you have it—from the ancient philosopher, Tzu to the New Testament and from modern day spiritual leaders: kindness can heal. The more we put out there, the more it will grow. I'd love to see more signs like the 26 Acts of Kindness, not only in schools, but in malls, movie theaters, libraries, etc. One thing's for sure. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

If you were given the assignment of writing a kind act on a post it note, like the ones above, what would you say. Let's start spreading the kindness.

My act of kindness: "Taking some time to talk to a slightly offbeat woman at the gym this morning and sincerely wishing all of you a wonderful day!"              

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Core of Love

Chocolate covered strawberries are heavenly. Nothing like a dozen roses to bring some romance to an ordinary table. A bottle of wine is always welcome in my house. Cards with sentimental words certainly make me smile. Rarely will you hear me say, "No," when my husband says, "Let's go out to dinner."

All of these things are gifts we might receive from that someone special on the dreamy holiday we call Valentine's Day. But are they true symbols of love? For me, they're just fringe. Real gifts of love cannot be bought. They are how we treat the people we care about on a daily basis. Showing support during a tough time. Giving encouragement when feeling defeated. Sharing excitement on a special occasion. This was demonstrated so perfectly for me when I watched Gabrielle Gifford speak before the Congressional Committee on Gun Control two weeks ago with husband Mark Kelly by her side.

In the video below, I see three kinds of love immediately and I'm sure there are many more. First, the love Gabrielle must have for herself, her life, her husband, and her mission. We all remember that awful day two or three years ago, when she was shot in the forehead while greeting constituents in a strip mall parking lot, resulting in severe brain damage. She nearly died, couldn't speak, walk, eat, or move. Look at her now—absolutely beautiful. The work and dedication that led to this moment is amazing. So much love and congratulations to you this Valentine's Day Rep. Gifford.

Second is Gabrielle's husband, Mark Kelly. The adoration he feels for his wife is evident with each gesture, every glance, and a face full of pride. That is the core of love. Watch:

The third love I see is behind the scenes. Can you imagine how Gabrielle's speech-language pathologist felt as she watched this? Nancy Helm-Estabrooks is the professional Mark Kelly contacted soon after Gabrielle was shot. Nancy and her team have offered intense treatment since that time. I'm sure credentials were impressive, but I also have no doubt that the package came with devotion and love. The results are incredible.

              Nancy Helm-Estabrooks is the woman standing in the
I have to share this clip from The King's Speech, when King George VI's speech therapist coaches the stuttering king through a major speech. I bet Nancy Helm-Estabrooks can really relate to this.
The clip is a bit long, but take a moment to notice the love.

For me, this is what Valentine's Day is about. Thinking about the people I love: my husband, sons, parents, sister, brother, nieces, nephews, and sincere friends—all we have done to support one another through those good and bad times. There are far to many to mention here, but I'll be sure to thank them on this day for their steadfast loyalty and abiding love.

Happy Valentine's Day!   


"You will know you have found love when you meet someone who makes you feel strong instead of dependent, who appreciates you for the person you are and isn't threatened by your success, who supports you when you're down, takes pride in your accomplishments, and will hug you even after a difficult day. And it shouldn't take preparation, just a willingness to risk putting yourself out there and a little good luck."—Author Unknown

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Valentine's Day Giveaway!

Win a Valentine's Day Giveaway!
Four Diverse Love Stories by Debut Authors
Glamorous Love: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Secret Love: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Misplaced Love: A Stop in the Park by Peggy Strack
Zombie Love: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion 
Just go to my Facebook page and "like" the giveaway post and your entered.
Check back on February 13 to see if you won this romantic 4-pack.
Good Luck Everyone!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chowder Mania

One of the best ways to kick back on a cold winter day is to sit in front of a fire with a hot crock of chowder. Nestled in a cozy chair, instant comfort seeps in with every spoonful.

My hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY ran with this idea fifteen years ago when the Convention and Tourism Bureau started the Chowderfest—a fun day where local restaurants create unique and tasty chowders. They serve cupfuls of these hearty soups to hungry patrons for one dollar. The idea is to try as many chowders as possible then vote for the one you like best.

February 2, 2013 was the big day when more than 20,000 chowder hounds invaded the streets of downtown Saratoga searching for their favorite. It's not just the common New England or Manhattan clam chowder varieties either. Take a look at some of the offerings (and there were 65 more to choose from):

 Chicken wing chowder with a chicken wing on top (Dango's) 

Paella Chowder (Gaffney's)

Reuben Chowder (Irish Times Pub and Restaurant)

Brownie Batter Chowder (Plum Dandy)

African Sweet Potato Chowder (The Wine Bar)
Of course, I was there with husband, Keith, and good friends. What a kick back day! My favorite chowder: Balinese style seafood chowder with sweet potatoes, tomato, coconut milk, & ginger at Sperry's, but to be fair to the other restaurants, I was full after seven, or was it eight cups. With over seventy restaurants participating, I missed quite a few. Yes. We do like to eat in Saratoga Springs. 


Even though the chefs in town offered their culinary best, the festival isn't all about chowder. It's about people turning off the TV and computer, getting out of their homes, gathering as a community, and having plenty of fun. Take a look:

   Caroline Street is closed to cars so people can walk freely 
without having to worry about traffic.

No one minds waiting in line at Chowderfest—a chance to
chat and meet new people.

    Who needs an inside table on a February day in upstate New York?
After all, cold weather & hot soup go together!


Soup servers at Scallions keep the customer satisfied 
and happy.

  A group taking a rest at one of the many outdoor fire pits in town.

And there's more than chowder. These bloody Mary's look 
like a meal.

Friendly bartender at Jacob & Anthony's isn't too busy to smile.


The snow didn't even push people inside.

Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau staff member,
Angela LaTerra helps to make sure everyone has a great time.

How many people walked the streets of Saratoga Springs on February 2 searching for the best chowder: over 20,000.

How many cups of chowder served? The numbers aren't in yet, but if everyone had seven cups like me, that equals 140,000. Quite sure the final number will come in much higher. 
Who was the winner?
The Parting Glass with their triple seafood chowder.  

Don't know if this is the recipie The Parting Glass used, but it is a seafood chowder from Galway, Ireland...supposed to be delicous. Check it out:

A great winter kick back day in Saratoga and I wanted to share it with you. What's a popular fun day in your hometown? I'd love to know.