Sandy DeLisle's Blog

Wow! Has it really been 10 weeks since I last posted here?  Well, it’s not that I haven’t been writing. I actually finished two books in the time period since I last blogged .

Currently, I am shopping both of those books, hoping that a traditional publisher will pick up one–or better yet, both–of the books. You see, I self-published one of my young adult books, Pure Enough last October, and what I have learned from that experience is that I am not a very effective book marketer. Without a publishing house behind my book, all the publicity is left up to me. And, as it turns out, I am not the best at promoting myself. Give me a cause, a charity or an animal in need of a home, and I can rally the troops like nobody’s business. Let me demonstrate this point: This is Gunner.

 

Not only is he adorable, as you can clearly see from his photo, he is  brilliant.  As a stray, he hung out at the park, watching for the perfect person to help him find a home. When he saw Jorja Fox–yes, that would be THE Jorja Fox from the hit show C.S.I. Las Vegas– he followed her home. Now Jorja is a huge animal lover (I know this because she came to Chicago and helped me promote the End Dogfighting program I used to run); however, with her travel schedule, it makes it difficult for her to keep Gunner. She is fostering this beautiful boy until she can find him a suitable forever home.  If you know of anyone who is looking for a wonderful canine companion, please let me know. Jorja had Gunner temperament tested and he passed with flying colors. And you can’t beat his cool backstory: wayward pooch follows home dog-loving celebrity.

However, when it comes to promoting me, myself, and I, I get tongue-tied. I just hope that people will, oh, I don’t know, stumble across my writing and like it?  I know, not an effective strategy. As I try to develop a better marketing plan, I continue to write. That is, after all, one of things that makes me most happy.

Now wait a minute! I was just about to end this post, and I didn’t even tell you about my two new books! See my marketing skills are already improving…

“Defending the Underdog: My Journey from Violence Interrupter to Animal Advocate” is a book Tio Hardiman hired me to write for him. If you don’t know Tio, you should. He is the creator of the Violence Interrupters, an antiviolence program of CeaseFire that utilizes ex-offenders and former gang member to diffuse violence in the city of Chicago. Tio’s tale of overcoming drug addiction and street hustling to become an international authority on street violence is an inspiring one. Throw in his current work to help protect some of the most helpless victims in underserved communities–pit bull dogs–and you have a true heroe’s story. Tio was able to get Alex Kotlowitz, the  bestselling author of “There Are No Children Here,” to contribute the forward to the book, which has already helped to draw some interest in the book from agents. Tio can teach me a lot about marketing myself, that’s for sure.

The second book is a picture book called “Hens for Friends.” I have never written a picture book before, and let me tell you, it is not as easy as it looks. I submitted my original idea for the book to an incredible humane-themed picture book publisher called Gryphon Press. I love their books and have used them for years to promote humane education. I put together my book, along with what I thought was a decent pitch for the project, and emailed it off to the publisher. It turns out my pitch and concept were spot-on, but the publisher told me I needed to really focus on making the main hen more lovable. She also advised me that each word needs to be chosen with the utmost of care, since there are so few  of them in a picture book. I took her words to heart, revised the book, and resubmitted.

So now I wait for one or more of my eggs to hatch…

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a good home for Gunner, please let me know!

Advertisements

 

I submitted the following essay about the meaning of love in a contest and did not win. Rather than allow the essay to “gather dust” in my hard drive, I thought I would post it here since Valentine’s Day is coming up…

Love is one of those things that is hard to define, but, just as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity in the landmark Jacobellis v.Ohio case, I know it when I see it. Or, at least that’s what I used to think. With the passage of time, I have learned that sometimes love is not so easily recognizable.

 From the moment I was born, I was lucky enough to be bathed in unconditional love by my parents, so I have recognized and understood the pretty side of love for as long as I can remember. Warm hugs, words of encouragement and limitless patience were what defined love for me. As a child, I was showered with all these beautiful, tender parts of love and sheltered from harsh words, judgment and confrontation. As a result, I came to believe that arguments and intensity were the opposite of love. Love was warm, easy-going, kind and fuzzy with no sharp edges.

 I struggled to understand the biting words of sarcasm, anger, jealousy and pain that others around me expressed, especially as they were directed at supposed loved ones. For this I was called Pollyanna, goody-two-shoes and unrealistic, but I didn’t care. I was sure it wasn’t possible to really love someone and speak and behave so cruelly toward them. I lived by the adage “love means never having to say you’re sorry”. After all, if you are always nice and thoughtful, never speaking harshly or acting unkind, for what could you possibly have to apologize? I prided myself on not ruffling feathers or causing strife. In my mind, there was no place for dark and intense feelings in a loving relationship. Love was refined and proper. No apologies necessary.

 However, as my world expanded, and I stepped outside the comfort zone of my unconditional familial love, romantic love showed me the hard, ugly, thorny side of love: disappointment, jealousy and possession. I was crushed when at the age of fifteen, the boy I was sure I was going to marry, cheated on me. How quickly my love for him turned to hate. I told my friends I didn’t care about him anymore, that I hated him, but I was lying. At least about the not caring about him part. Of course I cared! I stayed up all night waiting for his phone call, spied on him and his new girlfriend and did nothing to stop the nasty rumors people were spreading about the two of them. Surely this was not “not caring”, but I couldn’t call it love; there was too much anger and hate involved. This was messy, uncharted and uncomfortable territory for me.

 Then, I read Elie Wiesel’s quote about the opposite of love not being hate, but indifference. He was, of course, referring to the Holocaust and attempting to explain the mass killing of millions of innocent people, so of course I could not grasp the context and enormity of this horrible event. Even so, on a much smaller scale within the circumstance of my experience with my cheating boyfriend, I understood that there was something to the idea that love and hate were somehow two sides of the same coin.

 In school, I began to study the law and I started to see how legally hate could in fact be love in a different form. In any case, the law recognizes and mitigates for acts which cause harm and even death to loved ones when those acts are done “in the heat of passion”.

 I will never forget the first time I saw a so-called crime of passion. I was a junior in high school and we were watching a movie about the Viet Nam War. Rather than allow her baby and young son to be captured by an American soldier, a Viet Cong woman threw herself and her two children off the side of a cliff. In her mind, death was better than whatever the soldier had in store for her and her children. It was a completely tragic and haunting scene and I remember struggling with that image for months, questioning if a person could really love someone AND kill them at the same time. Was it possible that killing someone to spare them was the greatest love of all?

 Then, years later, when I was twenty-three, I was confronted with that same question as my comatose father lay in a hospital bed. Three months after his stroke, his bed sores had grown to the size of grapefruits, and although I wasn’t sure if he could feel pain, I knew for sure he would not want to live hooked up to all those machines in a near vegetative state. There was no premeditation at all as I took a pillow and held it over his face. It would be an act of love, taking him away from all the misery and tubes.

 But then something came over me, and I knew that I could not harm him no matter what, so I removed the pillow from my father’s face.

 In the moments after my failed mercy-killing, I realized with certainty that love was not as neat and tidy as I had previously thought. It has ups and downs, ugly and pretty parts, soft spots and rough edges. And, although I could not go through with taking my own father’s life, I could identify with the strong passions that might lead another to do so.

Since my father’s death twenty years ago, I have experienced both sides of love’s faces. The tender, pretty side of love has given me the warm, cushy exuberance of three wonderful sons, a satisfying service-driven career and the blazing devotion of a doting husband. On the flipside, the tough, ugly side of love has given me the chilly barbs of my children’s independence, the hollow deflation of publishers’ rejections and my own stinging judgment of my loved one’s failings. 

 Today, after several years of many personal challenges, I can say that I am the closest I have ever been to understanding love, and I’ll tell you what, I know now that it is not always pretty, easy-going and warm. The difficulties of the last few years have stripped me to my core, causing me to act toward loved ones in ways that are not attractive at all. At first, I beat myself up for allowing these ugly demons out; these unpleasant displays flew in the face of what I thought love should be: controlled, caring and kind. 

But then, I came to the conclusion that love is like a china saucer precariously balancing on a Chinese acrobat’s pole, standing too long on any side will result in an imbalance. And, for way too long I had stood on the pretty side of love, seeking others’ approval, not rocking the boat, looking the other way when I should have gotten mad or spoken up. And, although, like most people, I prefer the soft, pretty side of love, I understand now that love’s ugly bumps and bruises keep us from being complacent and indifferent. They challenge us to be the best people we can be despite the obstacles and adversity placed in our path. And, even though, in love’s balancing act, the best place to be is usually somewhere in between its two extremes; that middle ground where acceptance and forgiveness reside, where both the tender and harsh and ugly and pretty sides of love live harmoniously, I have learned that every once in a while, because we are humans who make mistakes, it’s OK to precariously balance on that edge, loving and hating with every ounce of our being. After all, it’s from the edge we can often get the best view.

 I’ve also learned that, as Mignon McLaughlin said, both love and hate leave scars. Hate’s may be ugly scars and love’s beautiful, but they are both wounds nonetheless, and therefore each warrants an apology. So, that’s the crux of it for me now, only by knowing sorrow and being sorry can I understand the complexity that is love.

 

 

 

 

 In high school, instead of following my theatrical and musical interests, I followed boys. To be more specific, it was two boys: Bill and John. I attached myself to first one and then the other, and boy, I never looked back. Until now.

 When given the opportunity to write a guest blog about high school regrets at http://honestlyya.blogspot.com/, I knew immediately I had to write about the missed opportunity to become the next Pat Benatar. That’s what my fellow classmates, the Bannockburn School graduating class of 1981, predicted for me in eighth grade anyway. And, given that I had snagged the lead in our school musical that year and was subsequently asked to be the lead singer in a local band, it may not have been completely unfounded. Though, if I am honest with myself, I never could quite belt out the high notes like my favorite female musical icon, so that prediction was most likely not going to happen. However, that hasn’t stopped me from singing “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” at every karaoke bar I have encountered between 1988 and now.

Even if I wasn’t going to be the next female rock star, I could have at least had fun being a part of my high school musicals or show choir. But, for some ridiculous reason I did not audition for one play or chorus my entire four years of high school! Oh, how I wish I had had High School Musical or Glee to inspire me back then. The musical renderings of Gabriella or Rachel might have pulled me out of my hormone induced stupor. Or, at the very least I might have realized that you could get hot boys like Zac Effron to pay attention to you if you could carry a tune. Unfortunately, though, during my time, people like me were known as theater geeks and being a geek back then didn’t carry with it the cool factor that it does today.

        

So, what does a person do when she realizes she totally missed out on many wonderful high school experiences? If I were Marty McFly from Back to the Future, I would simply hop in my DeLorean, punch in 1985 and totally rock the Deerfield High School audition for The Pirates of Penzance. Since I can’t do that, I do what all good parents do: Nag their children not to make the same mistakes they made.

 

 

Beyond that, my books tend to have underlying themes related to the importance of pursuing your dreams and being open to new possibilities. For example, in my young adult e-Book, Pure Enough, when Katherine, the protagonist, transfers to a new high school, she has the ability to reinvent herself, but instead, she hesitates, afraid to try anything outside of her comfort zone. Her love interest, Aidan, is a hot theater geek (why didn’t I find one of those when I was in high school?) and persuades her to audition for the school play. Katherine makes the play, and as a result, learns a lot about who she is in the process.

 But, back to my future…as it turns out, I don’t need a DeLorean to alter my past mistakes. Twenty-five years after graduating, I landed a walk-on role in my alma mater’s high school musical. All it took was outbidding another frustrated theater geek at a local fundraiser. For seventy-five dollars, I have secured the opportunity to walk across the high school stage in front of an audience. Even if the director doesn’t give me a single line to speak, I won’t care. I am thrilled that the curtain has not closed on my high school theatrical debut. Sometimes life gives you a do-over, and when it comes, you better seize it.  I don’t think I could have written a better ending myself.

 Now it’s your turn…If you could pay $75 to experience something you missed in high school, what would it be?

 

Those of you who follow my blog know that I held a contest in the month of December asking readers what they would do if they had a windfall of $1 million dollars. This contest was a part of a larger Blog Hop created by one of my fellow authors of young adult books, Jo Ramsey; the goal of which was to give each other’s writing blogs exposure and get some great books donated to individuals and charitable organizations.

I want to thank all of you who took a moment to share with me what you would do with your unexpected cash; it was fun seeing what would make you happy! After reading all the entries, I was tempted to announce my mom as the winner of Napoleon Hill’s inspiring book, Think and Grow Rich, since she said she would share the money with her kids, but that wouldn’t be fair and I can just loan her my copy, so, the winner is…

Actually, the winners (plural) are Fenisia Pacini and Jennifer Martin. If I had a million dollars to dole out, I would hire these two to combine their plans of building more animal shelters in Chicago (Jennifer) and hiring more full-time police /animal control officers to educate pet owners about the proper treatment of animals (Fenisia). If the two winners would email me privately with their addresses, I will send you your prizes!

As 2011 draws to a close, I wish all of you a healthy and prosperous 2012. Maybe this will be the year you get a windfall of $1 million. And, if you do, please don’t forget the humble blogger who inspired you to think and grow rich…

Happy New Year to all!

OK, I must admit I like alliteration, which is why my post’s title this week sounds so snake-like.  I am the first to admit that alliteration can be overused and sometimes seems stilted (sorry, it’s an addiction), but honestly, all three of the S-words in my title are on my mind as of late.

Sitcoms– When I was at a Halloween party a few months ago, dressed as a fairy princess, by the way, I learned that a friend’s husband had a dream to create a sitcom based on his life. When he found out that I write he asked me if I might be interested in putting together a script for his sitcom idea. Having just lost my day job, I thought, “Why not?” After all, the premise for the show was funny and unique and I’m not one to let practical things, like the fact that I have no idea how to write a sitcom script, get in the way. Instead, I borrowed The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier from my local library and proceeded to write a script for a new sitcom that can best be described as a cross between Taxi and The King of Queens. If you have read my previous post about Livin’ in La-La-Land, you will understand why I still hold out hope that this series will be on the air someday, even though in The Screenwriter’s Bible, the author says you are more likely to part the Red Sea than you are to break into sitcom writing without any experience. This dismal prediction, however, does not take into account my magical pixie dust, which, when cast into the eyes of the TV executives, will make them put Driven in their new fall lineup. Now, I just need to meet some TV executives…

Sanibel – Sanibel Island, Florida, my second S, is my home-away-from-home. And, if we weren’t so embedded in Northern Illinois, it would be our family’s permanent home.  I love the sand beaches strewn with seashells, the delightful dolphins dancing in the waves and the overall laid back vibe of the island (seventy-five percent of the island is nature preserve). My father-in-law owns a condo there and every year since he has owned it, our entire family has spent at least one week, usually in August when no one else wants to be in Southern Florida, enjoying the island. Not once since he bought the condo ten years ago has the condo been available over our kids’ winter break.  But this year, for some reason, it did not rent the week before Christmas! I am taking advantage of this fortuitous occasion and taking all three boys to our favorite get-away during peak season on the island. I feel very lucky that we get to take this trip and am wondering if this next guy had anything to do with it…

Santa– Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there is something magical in the air around this time of year (perhaps it’s my residual pixie dust). But seriously, people seem to want to be better and they are often a bit more reflective on what is important in their lives.  The Big Guy (I will let you interpret that reference as you see fit) works in mysterious ways.  Although two out of  three of my kids have stopped believing in Santa, they still enjoy the specialness of this time of year (slower pace, more family time).  And, of course they don’t mind the presents Santa’s helpers leave behind either.

As 2011 comes to a close, I will be reflecting on all of these Ss from the comfort of my beach towel and hoping you have a happy holiday season…

Those of us who love to read are bonded by the written word. Of course the act of reading is magical all on its own; after all, stepping into a fictional world and experiencing a riveting story is even better than a vegan chocolate cupcake. (For those who don’t personally know me, vegan cupcakes are my reference point for all that is good in the world).  And,  non-fiction books can be just as compelling as fiction, giving us insights and expanding us as individuals on a myriad of topics.  But, the whole reading experience is further enhanced by sharing the feelings and information we glean from our books, which is how they bond us with one another and one of the reasons my favorite gift to both give and receive is a book. It’s just so much more enriching when you can trade thoughts about the same text. Sometimes the other readers will agree with you and other times they won’t. Either way, it doesn’t the matter. The point is that you have a common experience; you have bonded over a book.

Over my life, I have given and received dozens of books. My favorite book that I was given as a child was From the Mixed- Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg. My mom gave me this book when I was in third or fourth grade,  just when I was starting to think of myself as having a separate identity from my family. I remember reading it over and over again. I was entranced by the protagonist, Claudia, for having the nerve to run away from home and live in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. How cool that an 11-year-old could take her own life into her hands like that! Thankfully, I never had a need or desire to run away from home, but reading about a young girl who did run away empowered me. A lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that even kids could make choices for themselves. And, if those choices don’t always happen to be the best choices, it isn’t the end of the world, because you can always go back home.

Because of the power the written word has over me, I have always loved sharing books with my loved ones. In fact, when all my friends and relatives had babies I was never one to give cutesy outfits or burping cloths. Nope, baskets of Sandra Boynton board books would be forthcoming from “Auntie Sandy” upon the birth of a baby. It’s never too early to start that bonding over books. Just try not giggling as you say the words, “Moo, Baa, La, La, La!”

So, in the spirit of bonding over books this holiday season, I am participating in a BOOK BLOG HOP. What this means is that a bunch of us authors for young adults have gotten together to share our favorite books with the readers of our blogs as well as our local library or non-profit organization. I will be giving away a copy of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill to the person who writes what I deem to be the best answer to the question, what would you do if you had a windfall of a million dollars? Just post your entry by December 31st in the comment section of this blog and I will choose my favorite and mail it (the book-not a million dollars, sorry!) off to you in time for you to start making your millions in 2012! I have found Think and Grow Rich to be absolutely fascinating in that Andrew Carnegie commissioned Napoleon Hill to interview hundreds of successful people to find out how they made their millions. The answers may just surprise you!

As for the book I will be donating to a local group, I will be giving a copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to Cabrini Green Tutoring Project in Chicago. This is a wonderful organization that provides tutoring to underserved children. http://www.cabrinigreentutoring.org/

But the fun and book bonding don’t stop here! There are dozens of other authors doing book giveaways from December 4-31st! Go check out their contests as well:

Today I am hiding behind my keyboard. There is something I have to say that I cannot bear to use my voice to convey. Instead, I will allow the computer to tell of the grief that is welling up inside me so much that it is hard to speak.

Last week I learned that our  dear dog, Ghost, has an inoperable tumor on her heart. The vet said she has less than two months to live. Now she is lying at my feet and I am watching her sleep as her shaved belly heaves up and down with labor. Jazz, her one-year-old canine in crime, sleeps peacefully behind her, oblivious to the fact that soon her best friend will be gone.

For those of us who have pets, this is the decision we dread. We all hope that our pets will pass in their sleep and we won’t have to “play God”, making the decision to end their lives, but, unfortunately, that is not often the case.  In fact, it was only a little over a year ago that we euthanized our beloved Timber after a long and debilitating illness.

We adopted Timber and Ghost together at an adoption event. We went to meet Ghost, who was then between one and two-years-old, and came back with both her and Timber. Some people thought we were crazy bringing home over two hundred pounds of German shepherd with a two and five-year-old at home. We, however, have not regretted the decision even once. Our boys have learned compassion, patience, empathy and responsibility from their four-legged siblings. But most importantly, they are learning the preciousness of each moment of our lives, which includes the shared moments we have with the pets with whom we have chosen to travel. 

Our very social fifteen-year-old showed me just how much he understood this valuable lesson when, after learning of Ghost’s short time remaining, chose to stay home most of the weekend so he could be with her.  I was glad that both he and Ghost were asleep when I went to tell them goodnight Friday night, because I don’t think the words would have come easily then either, after what I saw. There, on the floor, was my 5′ 9″ jock of a young man cuddled up next to my dying dog. He wanted to sleep with her and give her comfort in her last days. Little does he know how much comfort that brought me as well.

Someday I will be able to speak of this and not cry, but until then I have my keyboard. It’s the perfect tool for reflecting on the life of a wonderful dog and the lessons she has taught her humans.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.