Writing and Taxes

I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to leave the writing groove. I savor the days I wake up and write, do some book promo, catch up with happenings on Facebook, and write. Oh, I said that. So what’s interfering with this tranquil state of mind? Taxes.

First came the property taxes. Did you ever notice how fast that system can work? I mailed my property tax check and like two days later I looked at my bank account and the tax collector had already cashed said check. Then again, I mailed another check in payment of a bill from my town of La Quinta to Cathedral City, a distance of about 20 miles, and it took 20 days to navigate the system. Okay. To be fair, it was during the Christmas season. But still. The property tax collector has “Mail Pull.”

To the Rescue!

Now it’s income tax. Such dreary words. And such dreary documents. All those W Something or Other Forms from the government. Then I have to ‘fess up to income sources, last year’s property tax bill, DMV car license info, mortgage interest if any, medical expenses, charitable contributions. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. I feel tired. I know, I know, we need money to run the country. Is everyone paying their fair share? That’s another post. All I can say at the moment is, “Where’s Errol Flynn when you need him?”

But today I’m starting the process. The dining room table is cleared, ready to receive “the file.” During the year, anything to do with taxes gets dropped in “the file.” Wish “the file” was more orderly. But at least everything is all in one place. Or that’s the theory.

It’s not going to be nearly as much fun as writing. Perhaps similar to watching paint dry. Where will be the discovery, the aha! moment, the depth of feeling, the weaving of the plot, the unmasking of a character? That’s exciting. It’s not all that exciting to see where your money has gone. Might even get depressing.

But onward.

In about an hour I am going to sit down and begin. Writers always say that part of the process of writing is to sit your self in a chair and begin. Well, I’ll apply that same principle to doing the taxes. I may have to add a rope and tie myself there. I’ll be easily distracted.

First is the sorting. Said papers go into designated piles by categories. I made my own form  that covers the stuff I need. When I have everything sorted, then comes the deep diving into each stack to extract the numbers and write them on my tax check-list.

I have an appointment with the tax preparer. That’s the date that’s really motivating me. I have to have everything ready for them by the 21st of March. But, you know, other things are going on. It’s called life. Much more fun than taxes.

The process begins.

Okay, I’m walking toward the table. I’m sitting down. I’m pulling the chair into position. But wait. I need a good pen and a sharp pencil with an eraser. I need a calculator. I’ll use the one on my phone. I get up again. Find what I need. Should I have a fresh cup of coffee? Might as well. And then onward to do the deed, secretly hoping the telephone will ring or I’ll hear the ping of a text or the ring of the doorbell. I listen.

Nothing. But the sound of taxes.

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The Book Journey Continues

What have I learned in the All Ways a Woman book journey? I’ve learned that after publication, a different journey begins.

The transition becomes a study in contrasts. From private to public. From tapping into one form of creativity for the creation of the book to another form of creativity for marketing the book. From working alone in an office or studio to becoming a “public person” and a business person.

Version 2

At a Reading

Creating the book’s text in the silence of my office or during a quiet walk was both hard work and a joy. Co-creating through emails and meetings with artist Lynn Centeno was synergetic and exciting. I found myself working with an intense desire to find the words, dig to the meaning, search out the truth, tap into the feelings of the poetry and the art.

But …

when the book was finished, we became a needy writer and a needy artist. What did we need?

We needed sales, we needed venues.

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Busy signing.

Boom! We were into marketing and promotion. Gone were the silent, contemplative, and solitary cocooned creatives working in an office or studio. Now we were public people, we were giving talks, we were giving readings and presentations. We were writing on our Facebook pages, sending letters, making phone calls, hitting the pavement. Trial and Error were close friends. We worked on venues. We looked for places to give voice to our book such as magazines and organizations. For example, I became a guest blogger on the National League of American Pen Women website, a 120 year old organization with members the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Maya Angelou. NLAPW.org

We needed input. We asked our readers to share with us their favorite pieces, their favorite images. We found that readers like to do so. (Do so if you feel the inclination!) We find the input touching and real.

One reader writes:

I like “Quartet.” I guess I’ve been married long enough now to fully appreciate the seasons of our relationship, especially the comfort of how constant it is … As to the paintings … I like the last painting, “The Gift of the Gathering.” I like the feel that my women friends are always there, sometimes in the background, but there for me to reach out to when needed.

Another writes:

I read the passages and think about my life experiences in each one. I find I am relating to all of the passage, or wishing I could relate to it more. But the depth that is drawn out in each piece brings it home. I love “A Woman’s Hands”, “Sunlit Tulips”, and “The Moment.” At this point I find myself thinking a lot about these.

And another:

My husband’s  favorites were “Voices” and “Raggedy Ann.” I loved “A Walk With Her Father” and of course “Life Song.” Hard to pick only one or two as I love them all!!!

And another:

Love it! Amazingly, the quality cover and paper even feels good to the touch. Perfect hostess gift! I found the pictures and poems to be relaxing.

Readers post reviews. (Do so if you feel the inclination!) On Amazon:

This is truly a book of beauty, inspiration, and memories. The art work is fabulous and the poetry- exquisite. I’m generally not one to read poetry, but I love Ms. Mann’s descriptions- simple, and some provocative. I now have All Ways A Woman displayed on my coffee table. I do hope these two women do another book. It’s a joy.

Readers send us pictures:

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From Arizona

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From Palm Springs, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Ojai, CA

We found we had readers in Sweden, Viet Nam, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona, Minnesota, New York, and our home state of California. If you have the book and you are in another state or country not listed, let us know your state or place in the world. This just in. We are happy to add Calgary, Alberta, Canada to our reader list.

We needed to know how we were doing. We tracked our sales on Amazon, opened a bank account, and assessed our inventory.

We needed The Square, that unique little attachment you add to your phone or iPad that allows you to take credit card transactions. I bought the Square at my local Verizon store, downloaded the app, and followed the prompts.

We needed things like bags, and pens with ink that won’t bleed through paper but dries quickly when doing a signing. (Sharpie – fine point.) We needed signs to tell the cost of the book and that we take credit cards. We found we needed an event helper to be with us at the signing table. A signing table can be a busy place with two authors, credit cards, signings, coin of the realm, checks, questions, conversation, spelling a buyer’s name correctly when signing.

We needed chairs. We can stand or sit on a sofa or sit on a wooden stool such as used in a reader’s theatre setting (not too comfortable.) We’ve done it. But some of the venues are larger and the presentations a little longer. We bought two director’s chairs, the high ones.

We needed energy. We made the decision to make this book journey creative and fun. To find and keep the joy of pursuing our passion. Energy comes from within but also comes from the people in the room with us at a presentation. The synergy builds as they get used to us, to our voices, to our story, and decide to go on a woman’s journey with us.

What have I learned? I’ve learned to dig into my writing, my words, the meaning, the truth. I’ve learned about myself by working with a co-creator, by risking, and allowing myself to be vulnerable. It can be a gamble giving your words to others, but mostly it can be and is fulfilling. The book journey is worth every step. And by making that journey with a talented collaborator, you add another level of richness.

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Publication to Promotion – Now What?!

We were excited beyond words when our book All Ways a Woman debuted on January 31, 2017. To see it come to fruition after all the writing, painting, compiling, designing, and editing was truly an adrenaline rush for my fellow creative Lynn Centeno and me. But then the big question emerged, “Now what?” Well, that’s when the marketing and promotion began, big time. We had done some promotion, pre-publication, but now that we had the actual book, we went into high gear.

What were some of the things we did and are doing?

  1. The book was live on Amazon on January 31, 2017.
  2. We did a mail chimp eblast to announce the launch.
  3. We had a poster, bookmarks, and business cards printed.
  4. We launched an All Ways a Woman Facebook page.
  5. We set up an All Ways a Woman Goodreads page.
  6. We hit the streets, so to speak, to line up venues.
  7. We visited local brick and mortar stores, boutiques, and spas to see about placing our book on their shelves.
  8. We sought reviews.
  9. We asked readers to tell us their thoughts, favorite poems, and watercolors.
  10. We each have an online presence where the book is publicized.

And now we are working on our venues. Below are events that have occurred and are upcoming.

  1. January 19 through April 30, 2017 – Public
    TELL ME A STORY: WOMEN IN THE ARTS, an exhibit at the La Quinta Museum. Included in the exhibit are “The Gift of the Gathering,” a watercolor by artist Lynn Centeno, and an excerpt from the poem of the same name by author Carol Mann. Both pieces can be found in the book All Ways a Woman.

2.  January 25, 2017 – Private
Outdoor Resorts English Tea in Indio.

3.  February 14, 2017 – Private
Valentine’s Day All Ways a Woman “Coffee with Girlfriends” in La Quinta.

Preparing the signing table for the Coffee with Girlfriends event.

Preparing the signing table for the “Coffee with Girlfriends” event.

4.  February 25, 2017 – Private
All Ways a Woman Champagne Reception in Palm Desert.

5. March 1, 2017 – Private
All Ways a Woman Book Group Coffee

6.  March 8, 2017 – Public
All Ways a Woman reading and presentation at 2 pm at the La Quinta Museum located at 77885 Avenida Montezuma in La Quinta.

The event will be in the Mural Room.

The event will be in the Mural Room.

7.  March 12, 2017 – Public
All Ways a Woman reading at KOFFI in Rancho Mirage from 2 to 4 pm. Koffi is located at 71-380, Highway 111.

8.  March 30, 2017 – Public
Desert Book Expo at Rancho Mirage Library from 3 to 6 pm. The event is sponsored by the Palm Springs Writers Guild and the Rancho Mirage Library.

9.  April 7, 2017 – Public
El Paseo Art Walk – First Friday of the month. We will be at Cambria Gallery (next to Il Corso Restaurant) from 4 to 7 pm. Book/Artwork/Jewelry on display.

10. April 20, 2017 – Public
Presentation and Reading at Cambria Gallery (next to Il Corso Restaurant) from 6 to 8 pm.

And the poster fits anywhere.

And the poster seems to fit anywhere.

We still have much to do and more venues to tap, ideas to be brought to reality. We also like to hear from readers. A reader in Minnesota chose as her favorite poems “A Woman’s Hands,” “Sunlit Tulips,” and “The Moment.” She went on to give reasons for her choices. Based on that input, I incorporated “Sunlit Tulips” and “The Moment” into a recent reading.

Version 3

Happy Collaborators

One of the biggest joys of this book is the people we meet along the way. Book lovers, art lovers, readers, women from all walks of life. We feel their life experiences, sense their life songs as we share a reading, have a conversation. It is a pleasure to be all ways a woman, always.

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Book is Live on Amazon

Happy to announce the book is now available! All Ways A Woman, a collection of inspirational poetry and art celebrating a woman’s journey by author Carol Mann and artist Lynn Centeno, is now live on Amazon. Below is the eblast announcement.

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A Celebration in Watercolor and Word

Announcing the launch of

All Ways A Woman

a collection of original watercolors and poems in celebration of women

by Lynn Centeno and Carol Mann

For the woman who, in a quiet moment of reflection, looks into herself
for strength and understanding. She is in all ways a woman, always.
This is her book, her inspiration, her art, her poetry.

The book is the ideal gift to honor the women in your life.
It’s the perfect addition to your “coffee table” book collection.
It’s that special something just for you … from you.

Give the quintessential gift for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day,
Birthdays, Anniversaries, Girlfriends, and just because.

Hardcover
Now Available at Amazon.com

Published by
AquaZebra Book Publishing

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Lynn Centeno is a juried watercolorist whose art can be found in galleries, art faires, museum exhibits, and personal collections.

http://www.lynncenteno.com

***

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Carol Mann is a published author whose short stories, essays, and poetry can be found in literary journals, anthologies, and magazines.

http://www.carolsmann.com

***

Lynn and Carol are available to groups and organizations for presentations and readings of
All Ways a Woman

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Copyright 2017 All Ways a Woman. All rights reserved.

***

We just finished doing an event with the book – an English Tea. Great fun! Upcoming events include a “Coffee with Girlfriends” and “Champagne with Friends.” I’ll be posting about these.

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The book has arrived!

The book has arrived. Yes, All Ways a Woman, a collection of art and poetry created in collaboration with artist Lynn Centeno, is here. Within its pages, we invite you to walk with us as we depict a woman’s path, give voice to her life song, and honor her journey in watercolor and word. In hardcover and published by AquaZebra Press, the book will become available January 31 at Amazon.com.

Through the course of developing the project, we were moved by not only the uniqueness of women’s experiences, but also their universality. How women inspire and encourage each other. Their strength, resolve, and grit. Their vulnerability, their ability to give. Their talents.

And so the book was born. At heart, it’s a portrait of a woman. We hope it will inspire. We hope it will bring reflection and peaceful moments. We hope you will enjoy. But mostly we hope you will find it a celebration.

Join us on the journey.

Join us on the journey.

How did All Ways a Woman come about? The collaboration on the book actually began in 2011 but we didn’t know it. The National League of American Pen Women Palm Springs Branch did a program called Ekphrasis (EHK-fra-sis) for writers and artists. And Lynn and I participated.

A quick aside about the word ekphrasis. It’s a noun from the Greek meaning description and is an old literary form in which a writer wrote a description of a painting or object of art or sculpture he admired. For example, Homer described the shield of Achilles in great detail in the Iliad. The literary form took a turn in the 1800’s. In 1820 John Keats published the classic “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which he not only described the urn but then in a departure from convention incorporated his feelings and thoughts. From that moment, an ekphrastic writing became something more. Today it’s defined as a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art.

But back to the Ekphrasis experience. Branch artists submitted pictures of their art which were posted on the local Pen Woman website. Writers in the branch then selected one to write about. I chose Lynn’s watercolor called “I Care Not.” (The watercolor and poem are in the book.) For the final program, as each artist’s work was displayed, the writer read her accompanying piece. By the end of the event, there was a calm in the room and the women in attendance, whether they knew each other or not, seemed to feel what can only be described as a palpable closeness of spirit. A fulfilling experience.

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Watercolor by Lynn Centeno accompanying the poem “The Gift of the Gathering.”

Fast forward to 2013 when the branch repeated the event. Again I chose one of Lynn’s watercolors called “Girls’ Night Out.” The poem is a look into what girlfriends might like to dish about. It’s also in the book.

After those two collaborations, three years passed until the summer 0f 2016, when Lynn casually suggested we do more.

The idea percolated. We each went through our existing body of work for everything “woman.” Themes came to life about women’s thoughts, loves, and lives. We worked page by page or “bird by bird” as author Anne Lamott wrote and we gathered our collection. Some of the watercolors had been in juried shows. Some of the poetry had appeared in literary journals and magazines. We joined pictures with poems. And we created new work. Slowly, we had our book.

Now it’s January 2017. We’re ready to launch. An email promotion announcing All Ways a Woman will go out within days. The book will have its own Facebook and Goodreads pages. We’ll be doing readings, presentations, and book signings. Think about us for a program for your club or organization. A tea? A reading and champagne? We’ll welcome your reviews and comments.

And think about the book as a thoughtful gift for a special woman in your life. Mother, sister, wife.  Mentor, colleague, girlfriend. Honor and celebrate her on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, an anniversary, a birthday, or just because. And, ladies, it makes an extra-special gift to you, from you. We look forward to your joining the journey.

Come …
walk with us
wonder
explore

For together …
we grow
we discover
we become

from All Ways a Woman

A closing thought. Reflection is taking a look at ourselves in the mirror of our mind. We hope you will enjoy the watercolors and words as you reflect and become inspired by your own journey. And from writer Anais Nin these words:

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

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Letters, Words, and Resolutions

Okay. It is what it is – another blog on writing New Year’s resolutions. But, no matter how you fight the urge, it is the time of year when we often resolve to do things differently. We look at what went well in the previous year, what didn’t, and what we want to change in the new. It is the moment to pen the elusive Resolutions, things you intend to do like diet, exercise, and spend time with your mother-in-law.

What will be on your list? Are you working on a relationship? Are you adding to a Bucket List? Have you discovered a new passion? Will you take better care of yourself? Will you provide a better life for your family?

Sometimes our resolutions reach inward, sometimes outward. My attempt for 2017 is below. First is my personal list. Then I added another list – what I’d like to see for the world. I know, I know, but I can dream and sometimes dreams come true.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

This is what I want to remember and what I want to do in 2017, keeping baby steps in mind:

Reflect on life and relationships to improve the quality of each. 
Enjoy the moment. 
Simplify the clutter.
Open myself to the world around me.
Learn and never stop learning. 
Understand life is complicated and deal with it.
Try to live my best life.
Invest in others by giving.
Organize time in productive ways.
Nourish my inner self. 

reflection is mine
a mirror into myself
wisdom lies within

untried roads abound
paths to discover and test
insights will inspire

compassion is mine
sensitivity is free
the new year awaits

Courtesy of Spirituality and Practice

Courtesy of Spirituality and Practice

This is my list for the leaders and peoples of the world who are dealing with ideologies of hate and destruction:

Rejoice in diversity.
Empathize with the plight of others.
See the realities of the world.
Offer solutions.
Lead people toward peace.
Unite for human rights.
Temper radicalism and terrorism.
Innovate new peace strategies.
Open debate to new ideas and listen.
Negotiate to achieve results.

Soldier of valor
Your dreams keep you from slumber
Peacefully we sleep

Soldier of valor
You fight in war zones afar
We walk in freedom

Soldier of valor
We pray for your safe return
We do not forget

And so, our New Year is here. Much to think about. I toast your good health, your family, your dreams! Happy 2017! I like this from T.S. Eliot:

… to make an end is to make a beginning

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Money, Diamonds, Wreaths, and News – Real or Fake?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the real thing from the fake. Like money. On a vacation in Oregon, I broke out into a sweat when the hundred dollar bill I tendered for a purchase went through extended scrutiny at a local retailer. Had I in my travels somehow gotten a fake bill? Fortunately, after the clerk called in the manager who held the bill up to the light and other ministrations, it passed muster. (You can check out ways to detect counterfeit bills at Fitsmallbusiness.com)

Ah, and then there are fake diamonds. At one time I owned a dinner ring with a one karat faker in the middle surrounded by real sapphires, all set in white gold. The stone never had the sparkle of the real thing. Or else it never had the sparkle for me because I knew it wasn’t real. (Ways to test a diamond can be found at businessinsider.com)

And to carry the analogy further and to be in the holiday spirit, it’s hard to tell a fake wreath from a real one. In the photographs below and from a distance, you may not notice one wreath isn’t real. It’s not until you look closer that you see and feel the difference.

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Real or fake?

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Real or fake?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The phony is, well, lifeless. The pine needles are slippery, prickly, and plastic. It creates an illusion of vibrant greenery, but misses one vital component. It has no aroma, no smell of the outdoors, no vibrancy. The real thing has pliable sprigs and cuttings. The needles are soft. The aroma takes you to clean air, wooded mountain sides, the outdoors. It takes you into nature. You’ve probably decided which one of the above is real. Just in case, I’ll let you know later.

Like the wreaths, it’s also becoming increasingly hard to tell real news from fake news. We have a history of being lured into reading the fake, the sensational. Yellow journalism of the 1890’s and 1900’s loved the scandalous, the overly dramatic, and the use of  hyperbole. Today we have the tabloids which are always placed at the market checkout stand for that last minute impulse buy. They scream falsehoods. Colt Born With Two Heads. Queen Of England Divorces Consort. Dr. Phil Cheats On Wife Robin. You get the idea.

Headlines like these start rumors, hurt feelings, stir emotions, encourage us to be non- thinkers, and appeal to the lure of sensationalism. I’m amazed at the stories tabloid writers are able to create. I’m even more amazed there’s a market for this stuff. When I read those screaming headlines while waiting to check out my groceries, I feel they must be written with tongue in cheek. I read these headlines for the humor.

But now we are into a more serious news phenomenon – fake news made to appear real. It’s no longer weaving tales about show biz celebrities, sports celebrities, and nature’s anomalies, but about people in many walks of life who have been put into situations that scrape at the basic values and core behaviors of our society. Currently, with the presidential election fresh and bleeding, it’s about political leaders, political parties, and political schemes and conspiracies – fake news that can incite violence and mob mentality.

Take the recent Pizzagate. BBC news gives an account of how the story began involving high ranking members of the democratic party and the operation of a pedophilia ring out of the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in Washington D.C., and how it snowballed, even affecting news in Turkey. Most alarming, a 28 year old armed man appeared at the pizzeria to investigate for himself the “news” of a child porn ring operating out of the premises – and fired three shots. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

We know people can post anything. This freedom gives people a great deal of license.  Reddit, for example, labels itself as “the front page of the internet” with “User-generated news links. Votes promote stories to the front page.” If someone reads a piece of news on this site which turns out to be fake and tweets about it, this so-called news can spread quickly. Facebook and Google are looking for ways to battle this phenomena and label the “news” as fake.

What’s with this new trend? First of all, it seems to be here to stay. It’s emerged as another technique to undermine a rival or manipulate a situation. It’s a technique that could produce real difficulties and reactions in segments of our population and among leaders and countries.

What do we do to get the real news? One remedy is to know your source. Another is to stick with established news sites, evaluate as you read, and read the same story from several different sources. Another is to use a fact checker site such as those listed on Mediabiasfactcheck.com. Be a thinking reader. Look closer. Truth and trust can be sketchy commodities.

Remember the wreaths? From a distance they both look real, but upon closer scrutiny the difference emerges.  The wreath on the door is made of fake, look-alike “evergreens.” The wreath on the gate is made of real evergreen cuttings. Beyond the look-alike wreaths, fake diamonds, and counterfeit money, we now live in a reader, media, and internet marketplace where we need to beware of fake news. It’s up to us to read for the real deal and discern the facts.

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The real deal.

I want to end this post on a real note and not a fake one. I wish you all the merriest of holidays and the best in the new year. May you have success, happiness, and good health.

When I connect with each of you from around the world and read your blogs and comments, I’m reminded of how much more we are alike than different. And that we value truth.

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