Saturday, June 21, 2014

Poetry as Therapy

Life hands us lovely days and awful ones; angry thunderstorms roll in that eventually fade to reveal cheery skies.  The sun rises to light our way, always setting to give darkness due time.  Every individual faces trials, feeling the weight of fear and sorrow as well as the immense relief that comes at their passing.

"No one is without troubles, without personal hardships and genuine challenges.  That fact may not be obvious because most people don't advertise their woes and heartaches.  But nobody, not even the purest heart, escapes life without suffering battle scars." 
— Richelle E. Goodrich (Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year)
Coping with one's feelings during hardships, finding a healthy way to manage, can often be as challenging as surviving the trial itself.  For some of us, it may be the most trying part.  To think you can escape or anesthetize or ignore your scarred emotions, believing they will somehow no longer exist is like turning your back on the sun day after day believing this will negate its effects.  The sun was meant to shine and to warm the world, as emotions were meant to give experience and meaning to our lives.  Yes, even awful emotions have a place.  Various tools exist to promote healing during tribulations; all of them require the courage to feel.  
Poetry is one such toolmy frequent therapy of choice.  When I sit down to pen out a poem, it is with the intent of expressing the emotions and experiences consuming me at the moment.  It is a healing exercise to struggle with mixing words and my own feelings, pairing them up until I find myself mumbling creative lines that match exactly the sentiments gripping my heart.  Perhaps I do this to better understand myself, knowing if I can communicate well enough, others in similar circumstances will feel and empathize and understand.  I have written poems in the happiest of moods and in the depths of despair.  It may be that when you write, you choose to share your verse with others or with no one.  Either way, growth, cleansing, relief all come from the process.

I Danced with Gods

Last night I danced. 
My body rose from its slump for the first time since the beginning of sorrows
my fingers beckoning to the stars at arm's length, back arching as tingles bubbled up my spine, hips caught in a silent tempo while on tiptoe I twirled in endless euphoric circles. It didn't matter that you loved me or that you didn't. For I was wanted by the gods last night; their seraphs and muses descending on moonbeams into my midst, caressing my face and gliding their spirited arms about my waist, lifting my toes from the soil that I might feel what it is to fly without heaviness of heart. I danced with them under the glow of a loyal moon. For one brief, visceral dance I joyed as Heaven joysin endless bliss.
And the universe cherished me.

 — Richelle E. Goodrich 


The word alone sends shudders down a sensitive spine, troubling the thoughts of pained souls as their hurt swells in ripples. It is a sentence of undesired solitude often pronounced on the innocent, the trusting
administered without warning or satisfactory cause.

One day the moon is yours, or so you believe. The next, his countenance transforms from Jekyll to Hyde with no intention of ever turning back, and you are left trampled upon in a deserted street, concealed by dirty fog that squelches all illumination or any hope for future rays of light.

It is the worst of mysteries why a beast considered noble would forsake his duty, exhibiting a heart of stone. And all who once looked on him, now turn down their eyes and suffer, beguiled.

Some poisons have no antidote, but are slow, silent, torturous ends that curl up the broken body swept into a cold, dark corner. There she is left to drown in her tears
a dying heart.


  — Richelle E. Goodrich 

All That I Have 

My spirit mirrors the radiance of a clear, blue sky. With closed eyes I lift my face and smile, warmed from the core and from above. All hopes and dreams compete with this endless expanse of heaven, desiring the clock of eternity. I reach with my hands―frenziedly achieving―attempting to learn and do all. Yet I understand the humble truth; a drop of rain shall amount to my contribution among all the droplets in the vast ocean of human history. It is a pure and precious tear that seeps from my existence. Taste how sweet! It is all I have, given willingly.     

               — Richelle E. Goodrich 

Do I Love You

I stand in the night and stare up at a lone star, wondering what love means.  You whisper your desire—do I love you?  I dare say yes.  But my eyes drift back to that solitary star; my mind is plagued with intimate uncertainty.

What art thou, Love?  Tell me.

I contemplate what I know
the qualities love doth not possess.  Love lifts no cruel or unkind hand, for it seeketh no harm.  It shirks from constraints and demands, for tyranny is not love.  A boisterous voice never crosses love's lips, for to speak with thunder chases its very presence from the heart.  Love inflicts no pain, no fear, no misery, but conquers all such foes.  It is said love is not selfish, yet it does not guilt those who are.  On a heart unwillingly given it stakes no claim.  Love is nothing from Pandora's box; it is no evil, sin, or sorrow unleashed on this world.

My eyes glimmer as the star I gaze upon twinkles with brightness I do not possess.  I recognize my smallness—my ignorance of the One whose hands placed that star in the heavens for me.

He is love.  By His own mouth He proclaimed it.

Again the whispered question hits my ear—do I love you?  I dare say yes.  But my eyes squint tight, wishing on a lonely star, wondering what love means. 

— Richelle E. Goodrich

Copyright 2012 Richelle E. Goodrich

Monday, June 2, 2014

An Author and Inspiration

I came across a blog post written by a highly successful author whose multiple series are constant reads at my house.    I found it an inspiring piece—a reminder for struggling writers such as myself that success is indeed built upon a foundation of often discouraging steps.  I had to smile knowing my first book signing went far better by comparison (I sold 18 books), but the journey for bigger achievements goes on.  This author's words I keep close at hand, where I can read them whenever my dreams seem more like a trek to the moon than a climb up a mountain peakas if scaling a mountain isn't exhausting enough.  For some reason, this personal entry affected me; I feel like my goals are doable in the real world.    
Following is the actual post by Rick Riordan.  

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Overnight Success

At a recent event, someone asked me, “How does it feel to be an overnight success?”

The question took me aback. I had no idea how to answer, but I was struck by how drastically perception can differ from reality.

I’ve read about rock musicians who play free gigs for years in dingy bars
paying their duesbefore they get the one big break that attracts national attention. Suddenly, the artist is an ‘overnight success.’ No one has heard of him before, so even though he has been toiling for years, people just assume he appeared out of nowhere, a fully-formed rock star, like Athena springing from the head of Zeus.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears . . . well, the tree doesn’t exist until we notice it. Thinking about my own ‘overnight success,’ I remembered one of the first book signings I ever did, ten years ago, when Big Red Tequila first came out. I was invited to Waldenbooks in a shopping mall in Concord, California. They set up a table at the front of the store. They allotted two hours. I sat there in my coat and tie and watched people pass by, steering clear of me like I was an insurance salesman. I gave directions to Sears. I explained several times that I wasn’t an employee at the bookstore and I didn’t know where the self-help section was. I signed a napkin for a couple of teenaged boys who thought the title “Big Red Tequila” sounded slightly naughty because it had to do with alcohol. I sold no books.

I remember the first book discussion group I did in Oakland. Two people showed up. And after that, a seemingly endless string of events for
my mystery serieslots of empty chairs, apologetic booksellers, forced smiles. “Oh, it doesn’t matter if no one shows up!” I’d tell myself over and over. “It’s the signed stock and the publicity that counts!” Well . . . maybe. But I still felt like I was trying to fill a reservoir with an eye-dropper.

Most writers
have stories like this. We dread the room full of empty chairs. I still have a deeply ingrained fear that no one will show up whenever I do an event. I am constantly amazed when I walk into a bookstore and there are actually people waiting for me.

When the Lightning Thief first came out, two years ago, I was a basket case. I had a feeling in my gut that this book was my big chance. And I also had a feeling that the big chance was slipping away. My family and I went
out to the Bay Area to visit our old stomping ground, and I kept looking for signs that the Lightning Thief was making a big splash, getting some publicity, getting displayed prominently. No such luck. We stopped by several bookstores to sign stock. There was no stock. I did an event at one store (unfortunately, the day after the latest Harry Potter release) and the bleary-eyed bookseller’s only comment about Lightning Thief was, “Oh, it hasn’t gotten much coverage, has it?” One family showed up to hear me talk about my book. Two parents. One kid. I went back to the hotel room and curled into fetal position, thinking, “Well, that’s it. Nobody likes Percy Jackson.” My wife still teases me about that trip. She says, “If I could only go back in time and show you what was going to happen.” Still, at the time, I felt hopeless. It was another six months of constant touring and school visits before the Lightning Thief started gaining any traction at all. The Bluebonnet list from the Texas Library Association was the series’ first big break. Then it began showing up on other state lists, and word started getting around. Even after that, things were slow. I remember when Sea of Monsters came out, a year later, I was still having anxious conversations with my editor and agent, wondering what I could do to improve sales. Were we missing something? Was I wrong to think the series would connect with kids? It took almost two years before I really felt like things were turning around.

What made the difference? It’s hard to say, but it was a combination of factors. Most importantly, word-of-mouth. The series grew from the ground up, with one kid recommending the book to his or her friends. Booksellers and teachers and librarians started talking. I toured and did school visits relentlessly. The Sea of Monsters got on the Scholastic Book Club video, which was no small thing. The state reading lists started kicking in. And suddenly, just before the Titan’s Curse was released, the series seemed to reach critical mass and sales exploded.

But boy, it was a long time coming. I felt like I was clawing my way up a pit, tooth and nail. Am I complaining? Of course not. I’m just marveling at how uncertain I felt for so long. Nothing about the series’ success seemed inevitable. Even after I got the ‘ultimate break’ of being published for the first time, it was another eight years of writing while teaching full-time before I could go full-time as a writer, and two years more before I really felt like I was going to succeed. And still, who knows what will happen six months or a year from now? There are no guarantees.

As with any high-profile job, writing is judged by the exceptions in the field, not the average. When the general public hears the word ‘author,’ they think J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson. They hear ‘basketball player,’ they think of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan. It’s an easy jump to think that all authors are like J.K. Rowling, and every basketball player is Michael Jordan. In fact, 99% of authors have never and will never experience anything like the success of the top 1%. Most writers, even if they manage to get published, never quit their day jobs. Most will never get on the bestseller list nor have their books made into a movie, just as most basketball players will never play in the NBA, and even those lucky few who do will never make the money of a superstar. Judging other books by the Harry Potter series is sort of like saying, “Well, that guy won the Powerball lottery, therefore everyone who plays should win the Powerball lottery.” That doesn’t mean we can’t dream. If a kid wants to aim at being a pro ball player, that’s awesome. If a writer wants to become the next ______ (fill-in-the-blank author), that’s fantastic, but it’s good to approach that ambition with your eyes open. It will most likely be a long, hard road with no guarantee that success will come. Exceptions are rare, which is why they get so much attention. For every well-known author you can think of, there are a thousand more struggling in the purgatory known as the “midlist,” and tens of thousands who are still trying to get published. And even those well-known authors probably struggled a lot longer and harder than you realize to get where they are.

I’m not saying this to gripe, or gloat, or whine. I’m just trying to provide some context, so when I tell you how grateful I am for the success of the books, and how lucky I feel, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. People ask me what I think about getting so much attention, and how it’s changed my life. It really hasn’t. I’m the same guy who sat in Waldenbooks for two hours, giving directions and smiling vacantly at a stream of shoppers who were trying to ignore me. I’m the same guy who stared at countless rooms full of empty chairs in countless bookstores for ten years. I am still amazed every time I get a crowd at an event. I take nothing for granted.

But you can’t really explain something like that in the middle of an event. It’s too hard to put into words without people thinking that I’m bragging or complaining. So the next time someone asks me, “How does it feel to be an overnight success?” I plan on smiling politely and saying, “It feels great.”

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