HER MADNESS WAS GENIUS AND SHE HAD TO PAY

IMG_0150Tulips
BY SYLVIA PLATH

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

Sylvia Plath, “Tulips” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

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A Book IS Its Cover

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I am not going to tell you at this moment how the two images above – baldness and fire – interlock in my new novel, you’ll just have to wait and see.

But after reading a really smart blog about how publishers must up their game on covers, I really started to ponder things. Why are covers so static? I’ve worked with art directors who loved to place one perfect little thing on the cover, put a frame around it and put it on a shelf. I called these art directors THE TURD BURGLARS. Doesn’t matter how pretty that art is, across the room it still resembled a tiny turd.

Yup, they gotta want to buy the book before they can read it. That’s where covers come in.

I am from the FULL BLEED SCHOOL of art direction, as you can tell by the covers on my site. Find an arresting image – often from the past – and blow it up large. That’s the FULL BLEED style and I love it.

I want cinema in every book I do. I just like it that way, I can’t help it. I never can afford the Frank Capra photos from Magnum Photos and it makes me sad.

Lately, as young graphic designers strut their stuff, lots of book jackets resemble writing on the ASIAN CAVE WALL. While very cool and no doubt pleasing to Plato and his Republic, I can’t figure out what it is telling me about the book. But I like it. Just one more thing to feel ambivalence over, I guess.

This smart blogger suggested covers that create huge emotion and action just out of range of the frame, in this case, the cover. Her example was the teary-eyed face of a girl in The Blair Witch Project. I must admit, I too wanted to know what was happening just out of the frame of that picture.

Book covers must generate a lot more excitement than their current state. Visual artists are needed as badly as tech experts. Because books are, by necessity, becoming more visual because of the internet (weird, right?), and they need to compete with the amazing level of images Americans are now used to and expect.

In this new world, why can’t book covers move? Why can’t an alternative ending, on film, begin as soon as you touch the link at the end of the novel? What would a little Tristan und Isolde do in the background as you read the last chapter? Why aren’t we playing with forms? Pushing more? Pissing more people off?

Oh, okay, I’ll guess I’ll just have to do it. 🙂

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SECRETIVE PROGRAMS, SUPRESSED HISTORY, ENDLESS ANXIETY AND PAIN

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/Beth Wareham

Before you go any further or yell anything, read this Wikipedia entry on the Bracero Program

Seems in World War II, FDR needed labor to keep America moving while working age men fought the war. He made a deal with Mexico to bring up tens of thousands of workers to harvest food, run railways and build roads. Some braceros (literally “one who uses his arms”) returned to Mexico, horrified by working conditions in some parts. But many others stayed.

These Mexicans, these braceros that stayed, kept America moving as the world fought one of the greatest evils ever (though ISIS, still in training wheels, is making a run at it), Hitler and the Nazis.

Now, we argue over the fate of those third and fourth generation braceros. What an offense. These Americans carry the DNA that strengthened America in WORLD WAR II and we want to send them packing.

Everyone seems to have forgotten this moment in history. No one in Washington DC talks of it, at least that I’ve heard. I thought they knew their history there.

All of his breaks my heart. Obama has deported as many illegals with criminal records as any President in history. The recent push to the border came from confusion, poverty and an endless border war that has killed tens of thousands of people uninvolved in drug trafficking.

If I were a mother, I’d be trying to cross that river or desert too, so have empathy. And for the ones that, in their way, fought Hitler, for the love of God, thank their descendents and give them their citizenship.

As a Texan (and believe me, you ARE one for life), I understand the impossibility of running this country without the endless contribution of Mexico. I want to always live with them, eat their food, admire their work ethic, sense of family, and joy. Mexicans are a blast.

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YOUR MONEY DOESN’T GET TO CONTROL MY MIND

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Prior to the invention of the reader, one had to walk up to War and Peace and read it.

/Beth Wareham

I rarely quote my husband, but heck, I rarely admit I have one.

As a chief music critic of The New York Times, he wrote this: “Acoustics are to music what bookbinding and typeface are to Faulkner. A beautiful cover is a delight to hold in the hand. The right page design is easy on the eyes. But if our minds are doing their work, Faulkner’s voice will sound the same in the roughest, smallest and most unwelcoming old paperback as it does in the most luxurious special edition.

It depends on how well we read.”

Yup, my husband Bernard Holland expressed my sentiments about books in 2003, unbeknownst to me, and here I am, some ten years plus later, using machines to prove him true: It’s not your delivery device, it’s your mind. It just never occurred to me to roll over twelve years ago and say “Where do you think this book thing is going?”

The war of off-set versus digital seems to be abating, (publishing was heartbroken when their cover model, Woody Allen, signed with amazon Studios) There is an “Indie” versus “big house” mentality rocking along. I have my eyes (and money) on the Indies as publishing will follow along the same trajectory as music, television and film. Why wouldn’t they?

But at the bottom of all of this is the endless debate over who says what is “worth” reading, who is the gatekeeper, Tom Wolfe’s beloved cultural elite. Now diffuse, it’s getting a little less smoky in the room. Interesting voices are blowing in from all kinds of cracks and crannies. That can only mean greater creativity, more ideas, courage, change.

And no cracked screen or muddy wrinkled page can every change what this sentence does to me: “That was how Arcadio and Amaranta came to speak the Guajiro language before Spanish, and they learned to drink lizard broth and eat spider eggs without Urula’s knowing it, for she was too busy with a promising business in candy animals.”

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hunderd Years of Solitude – click to buy

and do not forget Memories of His Meloncholy Whores or Love in the Time of Cholera

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Brian Williams Commuting in His Mind

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/Beth Wareham

In 1991, Esquire reporter released a book that the Last King of the Good Time, Hunter S Thompson, said, well, “Dispatches’ puts the rest of us in the shade.”

Raw and relentless, Michael Herr captures the sheer intensity of Vietnam’s battles, the violent obscenities of soldiers, the nightmares, chaos and insanity.

Crazy isn’t just squirming over those in the fight and Herr’s recounting of his conversations with other journalists were often as haunting as any conversation he had with soldiers.

One exchange sticks in my mind after all these years. (The book was published in 1991 and Michael would go on to write the script of ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ source of the unforgettable and useful ‘Me So Horny”.)

Michael is talking to The New York Times bureau chief who expresses a fear that he will “file on his nightmares.”

I will never forget that line as it told me something I needed to know about extreme stress and reality.

When experiencing one, be careful of the other.

Perhaps, then, Mr Williams “filed his nightmare’ and a terrible lie was born. But rather than jeer, there is so much to be studied and learned here.

I just don’t want him reporting news. I want to know why it happened.

Here is some more amazing war journalism if you are so in the mood…simply click on the title

DISPATCHES by MICHAEL HERR
(see above)

A BRIGHT SHINING LIE by NEIL SHEEHAN
Sheehan, a UPI reporter and later with The New York Times, spent years with Colonel John Paul Vann, a gung-ho military leader committed to spreading American fables across the world. Vann was at the beginning of America’s involvement in Vietnam and Sheehan tells how it all came to war.

THE FOREVER WAR by DEXTER FILKINs
The image that remains is Filkins sliding through a spinal chord on his way into Manhattan on 9/11. This is the best book, so far, of the endless quagmire that is the Middle East.

5 SIMPLE QUALITIES FOR SUCCESS FROM THE HEAVY WEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD

Art of Sales COVER-4

COMING SOON FROM WWW.SHADOWTEAMS.COM

/Beth Wareham

The Art of Sales, Marketing and the Spokesperson is not the first business book I’ve worked on but surely the sweetest. Sweet? With George Foreman on the cover?

Well, yes. He is in fact one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and when Leon and Samantha Dreimann, the grill gurus, decided to write a case study of the rise of the George Foreman Grill, I jumped on it.

What did these people know that allowed them to sell 1 million grills a week at the apex of a ten year selling campaign? That was an UNPRECEDENTED amount of time on top, an UNPRECEDENTED market share for small home appliances. How in the world did they pull it off?

Imagine my shock when George Foreman, Leon Dreimannn and Samantha Dreimann all attributed their huge success to the following:

1. Hard Work
2. Integrity
3. Relationships
4. Innovation
5. Kindness

Now there is a list that you don’t see often. But it’s a list befitting an American Gold Medalist, a multi-title holder of the Heavy Weight Boxing Champion of the World title, an ordained minister, a father, a husband, a philanthropist and entrepreneur. It’s a list befitting George Foreman.

And boy is he a good teacher. You learn by example: Never denigrate your opponent. Smile. Bring joy to the moment. Learn from every experience. Put the time in. Empathize with clients. Help everyone you can.

Listen. Be humble. Use humor. And of course, those dimples of his help as well.

I don’t understand why the world needs “derivatives” or “shorts” or “longs,” but I do see why we need George Foreman.

And about 100 million more of him; one for each grill.

Look for The Art of Sales and Marketing in the next weeks…..it will be available on amazon.com and where other books are sold.

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STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Who is YOUR Writing Partner?

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/Beth Wareham

As a writer, editor and publisher, I have strange liaisons, just like in life, that speak to me and send me on journeys I did not expect.

The man above is named Jayson Davis. He is my writing partner and close friend. He is a Harlem OG, a Blood, as am I – honorary only. I met him when I published a book with his poems. I held on to him for dear life for his writing ability and GENIUS ability to plot.

Many practicing and reformed criminals are great at the plot. Clever, in their world, is life and death. In a book, it’s just fun.

Since I am a middle-aged woman, Jay and I thought it might be fun for some gangsters to help a white woman get her cheating husband back in line. I had the middle-aged woman feelings, Jay had the clever.

Below is the very beginning of the book. It’s about 1/2 written. Read these first few paragraphs and if you want us to keep going, we will.

If you think it’s a stupid idea, we’ll probably keep going anyway.

That’s how we do.

– EXCERPT-

HAIR CLUB BURNING
By Beth Wareham and Jason Davis

Arms pumping and three-figure handbag swinging, Mary Ann felt the first drips of sweat hit the water slide of her butt crack, flowing down to God knows where. It tickled, a strange sensation while in the midst of running for one’s life. She was speed walking down the highway double line in the middle of the nowhere, hoping the men behind her would not shoot.

She couldn’t find one person in her life who could drive out and rescue her. She’d dialed all the friends and family. No one picked up. She had left the scene so quickly and was so frightened, she hadn’t even dialed 911. Hadn’t thought of it, just fled. Later, she’d reflect that all the sugar she’d eaten had clouded her thoughts, made her stupid. Deep inside, she knew differently.

She was a woman alone. Wasn’t it obvious? What shit, she thought. I have a family full of men, a phone full of friends and no one to call at the lowest moment in recent memory. She pumped her arms faster now, moving over to road’s shoulder as a car appeared off in the distance. She figured getting hit by a car instead of a gun blowing a hole in her head was probably more to her liking. A car could drag you though, her mind quickly countered. Maybe a gunshot was better.

Periwinkle kitten heels dug into sand and gravel. Her teeth ground against each other at the sound. She was creating tiny landslides down the roadside with each step and finally a pump remained behind as she kept moving forward. Damn, damn, damn she thought as she wheeled around and grabbed the shoe. She was on one leg now, a flamingo with no water or wings. She knew she looked stupid hopping on one foot in the road in the middle of nowhere. She slipped it back on and strode back to the center of the asphalt, where her shoes worked.

God is punishing me, she thought. For the donuts. I have to die because I ate all those donuts and there is no one to save me. She began muttering words Heavenword: “I’ll stop the sugar thing,” she vowed as her ankle bent outward and she screamed in pain. “I will be more loving.” “I’ll go to Core Class.” She kept walking fast down the centerline and as the car became larger, her thoughts raced. She bit down on her lip again, winced, and a fresh metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.

I’m a bad wife and mother, her inner asshole continued. I’m out here because I’m a bad wife and mother. I’m out here because I do things I shouldn’t. Her legs were growing tired: She was not at her fittest. I’m out here because I’m selfish. I just had to have what I had to have.

Her thoughts grew even darker and sweat streamed down her body. Mary Ann kept rushing toward the approaching car, her thoughts ripping open her middle-aged soul. She could still hear the men behind her yelling in a language she did not know. She moved even faster, her personal fluids – sweat, tears and snot – attracting molecules of dust from the road. Her face took on the dust’s color, a boring hue her decorator friend would have described as “homosexual putty beige.” Why he called it that, she didn’t know. The approaching car, she could now see, had a huge hood ornament. Light flashed on it as she moved toward the road’s edge again to let it pass.

As the car moved closer, Mary Ann felt a new set of fears well up into the back of her throat. Who would be driving a car like that? She thought. The last time she’d seen one that big and rectangular was in Goodfellas. Or was it American Gangster? That’s it, she thought. The 70s. She realized that the 1970s were coming down a two-lane country highway and were headed directly for her. God, I hated those pantsuits, she thought. And the pointy collars. What is a car like that doing out here in the farmlands of New York? Please God, she bargained again. Let it pass.

The giant yellow Cadillac had another plan. It slowly floated between Mary Ann and the shoulder, door swinging open, and a distressed, abandoned middle-age woman was scooped off burning asphalt and thrown directly into the fire of her life.

####

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A Mother and Child Reunion. At Auschwitz.

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/Beth Wareham

Reparations: A Novel of War and Rebirth was written by 85-year-old writer Ruth Sidransky. It is based loosely on her years in post-World War II Germany and Austria, smuggling for the Jews rising up out of the sewers and coming in from the woods where they spent the war.

Sidransky started the book in 1950 and worked on and off on it for a decade. It then spent 65 years with little attention until now. Published along with two of the author’s other works, Reparations resonates with a master’s control of language and, given the dates it was written, rings with fresh horror at events that were then recent.

In her travels in Vienna, Sidransky teaches English to Viennese hoping to emigrate out of Austria. A silent woman sits in front of her during each class, watching her every move. One day, an anti-Semitic shout rises from the back of the room and the silent woman makes herself known: She is Clara. She is Jewish and she will stand between her Jewish teacher and the room of Austrians. She will protect her.

Sidransky and Clara become friends and slowly, Clara tells her story. She was experimented on by Mengele but allowed to live. She will never be able to have children. Her entire family is dead.

Her mother had a pin, a round simple pin that disappeared with her the day Clara’s mother was taken. Their mother and daughter reunion would not be joyous: As Clara arrived at Auschwitz, she found her mother in the mud, drinking out of a rain puddle.

Clara’s mother did not survive. Her pin did. She gave it to her daughter who then gave it to Sidransky asking that “someone, remember us. Just one person, please.”

Remember her. Whisper “Clara” from time to time, like a little prayer. She deserves it.

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85 Year Old Writer Offers Surprising Words to Young Women

images-1A WOMAN’S PRIMER

Guest blog/Ruth Sidransky
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If I had to say the Primer came out of a sudden urgent need to write a book exclusively about women and for women it would not be accurate. Avid journal keeper that I am, I do from time to time, pick up an odd journal and here and there, and in an unnoticed paragraph I find a philosophical nugget hidden in a recorded event or a comment about a person. Items to include in a book. Years passed and I wrote an occasional essay, but none that satisfied the writer, the “me” of the writer.

Although I realized I had the seed of yet another book to write I had problems of the page to solve. How then to go about structuring the fragmentation of most women’s lives, certainly of my generation? My working title then was BEGINNING AGAIN.

I struggled with this for a year, I struggled with whether or not I should interview other women: young, middle aged and old. When I approached friends they were eager to help, but in the end they were reluctant to divulge the details of their private lives for publication.

I lay the manuscript and my words in a desk drawer. I would come to it later.

Family matters, death and illness intervened.

I hit upon a structure. The alphabet would serve as the frame of the book. The ABC’S of a life. Each letter was to offer a positive attribute of a woman’s life. It would be my life, my experiences.

The first letter of the book is A, and A is for AWE. The awe of life itself in all it’s ramifications, awe of the dawning day, awe of a simple walk and encounter with a handsome dog, a moment of pure delight, for others it might be the awe of God.

And so I began an exciting book, excavating my life, through my years in Europe, giving birth to a daughter in Munich, Germany, a son in Barcelona, Spain. In each of these key cities I had experiences not given to many women of my generation.

As always, the essence of my work, my written words have to do with the clarity of language and the clarity of thought it engenders. One of the most important letters in the book is the letter “L”. Many would write of love or life. I chose the word “listen”. Listening for me is essential for human communication.

My mother and father were deaf, profoundly so. I learned as a very young child the importance of listening to the other. Listening implies kindness and respect. In this brief essay I write of an encounter with an attorney and his wife. His wife stared at my mother and me as we communicated by eye in Sign Language. Annoyed, I made a rude oral remark.

The wife turned to me in anguish and said, “ Sorry. My husband had a stroke and he can no longer speak. The therapist is trying to teach him to sign the alphabet. It is hard.”

My mother, not to be left out the conversation demanded to know what was said. I told her, in Sign.

She snickered, “So stupid! Teach him words Ruth. You know how.”

The teaching began, and the pleasure on this man’s face, now able to communicate some of his needs with a simple sign was thrilling. He kept nodding his head and he grinned with a crooked smile. Such joy.

My favorite letter is the letter “Y”. Yellow begins with the letter “Y”. Yellow is the color of the sun, the color of the daffodil that breaks through cracked spring soil every April, sometimes in May. Yellow is the color of life. I write a great deal about yellow. It is my favorite color.

The letter “Y’ leads into the letter “Z”. The zest for life.

I am grateful to find words that flow from one book to another. And there are others, even at 85; I continue to flirt with language. Above all I know that story is a connecting force, a sharing, explanatory force that binds human to human, whether told in fiction or in truth.

Cover model is Ruth Sidransky’s granddaughter Sarah.

<a href="A Woman’s Primer: An Invitation to Life, Love & Work” target=”_blank”>To buy A Woman’s Primer, click here.

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MOTHERS WITHOUT DAUGHTERS

1/7/2015
Guest Author: Ruth Sidransky
www.shadowteams.com

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Two years have passed and I awake startled. Carrie, my 55 year old daughter is at my bedside, gently nudging me awake. I open one eye. It is 4 in the morning. I listen.

“Mom, call me an ambulance. I need a shot.”

It is only a dream, a fragmented memory of the nights she reached out, touched my face when I rose from my bed to her urgent need for a strong shot, a pain killer stronger than morphine. The pills she had at hand did not relieve the cancer pain coursing through her body.

I called 911, the fastest route to relieve the pain twisting her face. Not a word of complaint, except a plea: “Mom, don’t wake the kids, let them sleep.”

Most nights it was cold, the chill of predawn in western Massachusetts was unforgiving. Not to add to the severity of her request, I rose slowly from the bed, reached for my warm down coat, and said, “Carrie, they will be here in five minutes, come lie down with me under the covers. Rest.”

“OK Mom, but remember we are just friends.” Always wisecracking, taking the edge off her fear and mine.

The police arrive; the ambulance arrived. They knew Carrie by name; they knew the route to the house. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last time. As soon as the EMT men arrived with a stretcher Carrie’s face relaxed. They lifted her from my bed, and carefully, slowly wrapped her in blankets and wheeled her out to the ambulance. No sirens, just blaring red lights to warn of their road speed, lest other cars hinder their race to get Carrie to the hospital. I hugged my coat to my body roused from sleep warm. Back to bed, the children still asleep. Good.

I was relieved.

Soon, soon she would receive a shot and be free of pain, at least for several hours. And so the journey went, the struggle against an invasive, insidious disease replicating throughout her intestinal tract.
Two years have passed.

I received a letter from one of her physicians last week. I sent him a copy of BRAVO CARRIE, notes from my journal, notes I had to write to keep me sane, notes that offered relief. The journal was my “go-to” place for comfort, for hope and understanding why Carrie after 25 years of remission had to fight another bout of cancer.

I never meant to publish this short book. I meant it as a record for the family and a few close friends. Before I sent BRAVO CARRIE off to a select few I edited some paragraphs in my journal for clarity’s sake.

I quote a line from this physician’s letter: Thank you for allowing me to glimpse intimately into it. (Carrie’s struggle) I think of Carrie often. She quickly changed from patient into friend.”

Carrie’s light shines.

Her children are well, on their way to their own lives. Her son is a college student. Her daughter will soon graduate from high school.

I miss her, my daughter, my best friend.

I say, BRAVO CARRIE.

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