The door to the pure land opens inward

The door to the pure land opens inward
Bringing our treasures into the world...

Friday, May 11, 2007

The backroad of getting published--plot twists & blessings

Wow, more than 3 months since I've posted! Life intervened.... But for those of you who really read what I write, my apologies. And for you just coming into this arena, I guess the gap in time doesn't matter.

But so much has happened since I last posted on my Blessings Ledger book proposal-agent-getting published journey, so many (as someone said) "plot twists," that I am understanding the value of frequent posting. It's like writing about the past, once the details have faded from fresh to distilled: you may see the essence more clearly so you can write it, but the turn-by-turn details are less immediate. It's perhaps the difference between a novel that takes ten years to write (a frequent occurrence) and a newspaper. And that, in itself, may be one reason why I like to write, and help my clients write, books.

Nevertheless, there have been plot twists. I think they are intriguing in themselves, and also because they reveal the journey aspect of life in any and every dimension--how little life resembles a linear chart going from A to B, how much more like a backroad where you may get lost along the way but end up meeting some wonderful people you'd never have met. It reminds me of when my first husband and I, back in the early 1970s, took a cross-country trip from Connecticut to California and back (ending up in the San Francisco Bay Area when that trip was over), in a very hard-to-fix car, a Citroen. Our car had the habit of breaking down in very odd places enroute--not the big urban cities, but the small towns we would otherwise have just sped through. One such breakdown occurred in a small town in Nebraska--an exotic place to a New Yorker like me, at the time. While my ex-husband tinkered under the hood, I went swimming at a public pool within walking distance. While walking there, I met a young man I didn't know on the sidewalk, who smiled and said "Hello."

That in itself was, as we used to say then, mind-blowing.

When my ex couldn't fix the car on his own, we managed to find the only mechanic in the entire state of Nebraska who dealt with Citroens. He came out and towed us to his farm, and while he sat outside and expertly looked under the hood, my ex and I were invited inside to chat with his wife. Soon after, the mechanic came in, washed his hands in mid-job, and we all sat down to eat Nebraska steaks and corn. Later, since the car would need a part imported from the next town, we were invited to sleep in their trailer parked in their front yard (they had acres of land). Morning met us with gold sunshine and pancakes. And so on.

I didn't like the car breaking down, but had it not had that propensity, we would never have met those hospitable people, eaten their food, slept in their trailer, enjoyed their friendliness, and I would not have had that memory which remains intact today.

So what has this to do with my book-proposal journey? Well, bear with me, it does. Writing a book--especially writing a book from the deeper self--is hardly a linear business. It has to come from the depths of the person in whom it has taken root, and that process is more curved (like nature) than linear. Why I thought that the process of finding a publisher would be linear, I'm not sure; probably because those things that seem to be about the rules and conventions of the outer world, I tend to think I have to make myself do. And because they are not intuitive by themselves, I tend to cull information and try to "do it right"--before I let go of what I can't really support and just pray for a way that is mine.

This is what happened in my book-proposal journey, short story: I wrote the book proposal because I'd sent another, related book I'd written (The Portable Blessings Ledger) to an editor at a publishing house whom I had made a with years before. That editor passed my proposal on to the gift editor, Vanessa. Vanessa sent the proposal back in my SASE (stamped self-addressed envelope), but with many comments in the margins, indicating that she had actually read what I'd written. Many of the comments were quite favorable, even though the staff had passed on the book.

Disappointment happened, of course, but being in the book field in my own way, I decided to be professional about it all. So I wrote a thank you letter to Vanessa. She responded with an email of her own, thanking me for my professionalism. I think we emailed back one or more times. Then she surprised me by inviting me to send her the larger book on which the Portable Blessings Ledger was based--which is, of course, my long work-in-progress, The Blessings Ledger: A Journey to Find the Union of Money and Compassion. Somehow, she gleaned from my brief mention of that book that there might be something of interest to her company, there.

I have come to realize that a single person's encouragement is enough to get me started on a large and otherwise daunting project. So when one of my clients told me she planned to take a book-proposal-writing class, I realized that would be a good thing for me to do too. I signed up, and over 6 weeks or so, I was able to hone in on the focus of the book proposal enough to get an anchor down. I spent another several months completing the proposal. But because the teacher, Dianne Jacob, had offered to critique the proposal, she got to read mine. And she seemed to like the idea of what I was doing very much, said my writing was beautiful (who doesn't love to hear that?) and even suggested that I contact a friend of hers in Massachusetts who is an agent.

I contacted her friend. This agency was most appreciative of what I was doing with my book proposal, passed on it for various reasons, but was quite encouraging. Later, a woman who worked there, Jane Falla, wrote me again to say that my book had lingered in her mind and she believed in its worth.

I thanked her. She wrote back. I wrote back. She wrote back with warmth and generous suggestions. I kept signing my letters, "In gratitude," because it was true. One day I realized that in the midst of all this effort to do the game the way it was supposed to be played, a true blessing had happened: I had made a friend.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Returning after a pause (and paws)

Well. It's been 2 months, exactly, since I posted to this blog. It's good to return. There's something about writing for myself but beyond just myself that brings things out in a special kind of way.

The absence was due to 2 things: one, the "Blogger" technology changed, and, ah, I could not figure out how to sign in and be recognized. (Is that a metaphor for something deeper?) And then, as often happens--including when one is writing a book--life intervened. My beloved cat, Duerme, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor, which seemed initally mangeable but then spread too quickly. Within 5 weeks after the discovery, my husband Ralph and I sadly had him put to sleep, because his quality of life was so very uncomfortable for him, and fragile.

This is a topic in itself, Duerme's life and healing journey, and passing. So much feeling was and still is attached to a 12-pound black, furry being. I miss his warm belly against my chest as he purred as if I were everything he had ever hoped for in life (for a brief time, until he was ready to jump down and eat or sleep or go outside). Ralph has written a beautiful poem about Duerme, the longest he has ever written. Perhaps I'll get his permission to put it up, here.

So here I am, back to writing talk, book development talk, deeper being talk or non-talk. It's 6 p.m. and my energy is highest in the morning, so perhaps this is just a hello--if you read these and even miss them when they're not there--and to say that my journey to bring my own treasures into the world, through my book proposal, is still in progress. (I use that phrasing because the description following "Writing from the Deeper Self," in my work, is "Bringing Your Treasures into the World...")

Perhaps I will just give a quick status report:

* Book proposal: Still at New World Library for consideration. I was told they would be looking at it at the end of January. If I don't hear back by this Thursday, February 15th, I will be confident and courageous, and contact them.

* Book: It will be written, one way or another.

* Agents: I had been introduced to an agent by my book-proposal writing-class teacher. She was lovely, and encouraging, certainly. Though she said the book was not for her, she said she expected to see it on the bookshelves at some point. And pointed me to another agent.

I looked up the second one, and it was a very successful NY agency, with best-sellers to its credit. This agent, who wrote (by email) in very clipped, succinct sentences, asked to see not the book proposal but the first 3 chapters. I have come to realize that I am a person who will marshall all my energies to bring forth what is needed, if just one person says, "I'm interested, I want to see it." I don't need 100 people to say it; one will do. I'm sure that harkens back to the family-of-origin stuff, where everyone was so absorbed in their own unhappiness that there was no room to say, "Oh, look who you are, look what you did, I want to see more of you." So this is a place for me to work on within myself, to be able to sense what's there and reach in and affirm it, to say, "Oh, there you are, I see you, and I want to see more of you!"

I had 2 of the first 3 chapters ready to go. But the third needed work. And so, inspired by the possibility of a big-name agent saying yes to my book, I spent about a solid week reworking the chapter. It was very emotional, I must say. At one point, Ralph came into the room where I was writing, and since I was so immersed in the story as to "be" only eleven years old, I had trouble shifting gears and responding to his innocent request for something (postage, who knows?) in an adult way. Such is the pitfall of writing from inside the experience. Usually, I provide myself with a way to come back out into current reality. This time, perhaps the deadline of having the chapter ready to send to the agent caused me to lose my usual consciousness of being grounded when you step back into the past, so that what you find there becomes a gift, not a revisiting of old ways, alone.

I mailed the 3 chapters to the second agent. Within a week, I got an equally clipped, succinct email back. A rejection. She didn't care for my writing style.

Ah. Years ago, this would have been crushing! But somehow, the inner work made a difference. I sat with the bodily feeling, upon reading that dismissive email. It felt like dread in the belly, a quick rise of nausea. And then, perhaps because I had made room for it, it was gone. And it was gone. I did not--amazingly--obsess about the rejection. I just took it in stride (who is this person?) and went on to do other things. Like write a proposal to attend a writer's retreat center in Pt. Reyes in the spring or summer, on the assumption that I'd have reason to be writing The Blessings Ledger.

(My spiritual teacher, Hazrat Inayat Khan, writes often about confidence. How persistence and confidence ensure success. I work with this as I am able.)

There was a point, between sending in the 3 chapters and waiting to hear from the agent as well as from New World Library, where I felt in limbo. Just waiting. Unable to put full-steam aheadness into my next step, because if the book is accepted, that is one trajectory; if it is not, then I need to put more attention into other forms of income and work.

But it was a good moment when I was able to realize that no matter how deep my desire to be published by this very good, visionary publisher, I still had to believe in my book; and beyond that, I had to know that my worth as a human being did not depend on being published, not even by myself.

That was not the quickest of learnings. My parents were both writers, and my husband is a writer, and writers want to be read. It is not only an ego thing; it is a soul-yearning to be received, when the deepest part of you has infused your work.

But why I am a book developer, I think, in those times when I ask myself why I don't do something easier, and more directly happy-making (like scoop ice cream), is that our lives really are books, with plotlines, chapters, recurring themes, and even great illuminations that change the course of the book, so that the ending is greater than the beginning. I was born into a literary life, but my temperament, I have come to realize, is that of a healer. So I believe that books can heal us, and that writing a book can heal the writer first of all. And that's why, despite ups and downs and the "life that happens," I believe in the Writing from the Deeper Self process, and what it asks of us, and the immense rewards it gives us. And whether someone outside us recognizes what we have done or not (and we want it to be "yes"), what really matters is that we have the experience, ourselves, of having been brought from a place of beginning to a place of completion, and to a new beginning--a new chapter, or perhaps a new book--again.

May your life flow like a wonderful read, and may you be blessed in all ways.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The book proposal is done and mailed...

The proposal is done. I finished it last Friday. It went into the mail, and now I wait.

There's more to it than that, of course. There's a very deep aspect to completing something. Especially something that's part of what you really desire and feel called to, like you must do, hard or easy. But I spent the next two days in a kind of a daze, watching 4 videos in 2 days, just getting my footing on this new plateau. I'm still in the process of sending down roots, reaching up to the stars. Do I dare allow myself to envision the best, to cut off doubts at the root?

There is more to it than this. There is family stuff, the daring past the undone things, pioneering into the unknown, even the hoped-for unknown. There is a lot I could say, which I think has value to say, because endings are not just a finger snap. There is a lot that arises, and someone within must be present to soothe the fears, help one grow into the enlarged vista and capacity. That someone is there, but while I was watching videos and wrapping myself in a comforting shawl-blanket, I'm not sure I could hear that voice.

Now, 5 days later, something steady comes in, or comes back. For as much work and hope and effort and new learning as you put into something, including something that's in the service of all you hold dear, there is still the reality that you are worthwhile just because you are, and not because you have accomplished a Herculean feat, even though you have.

I'm very happy to have been able to share this journey with you, this far. The journey of the journey of The Blessings Ledger. I anticipate there will be other things to tell. Meanwhile, I now realize that I know so much more than I did, and have the internal substance and confidence about proposals and what they stand for, that I went ahead and applied for a writer's residence retreat, with room, board, and nature, where I might write some of the actual book. I thought, "Now I know how to apply for things," and worlds open up. All you need is to keep perspective, not to take rejections personally, and to keep going if one door closes, and trust another is really opening.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stepping Sideways into Inspiration

I did it! I got the photos to work! You can see my photo at right (taken by Lucie LeBlanc, an amazing portrait, landscape, and action photographer).

I woke up this morning with the intention to put full attention to the Overview of the book proposal, the "last mile" of my last post. An inspiration came to me: to begin the Overview with an excerpt from one of the chapters. The book proposal expert wrote that you can open with a narrative, as well as a quote, anecdote, startling statistic, etc. Since statistics are my (recently) acquired ability, and narratives my natural bent, I found myself leaping out of bed (as best I could with this lingering cold) and going to the chapter that had come to mind, and copying a portion of it into the beginning of the Overview. My own words, written some years ago, looked back at me: a memory from age 12 having to do with money and shame. At the time I wrote it, it seemed so awkward and raw a self-transparency; but today, amidst all the sales tools of the book proposal, it was like a friend: poignant, real, evocative.

I inserted it into the file on the Overview. But then what? The expert said to create a cultural context for your book, before introducing it proper. I did my best. I, as they say in Yiddish, fumferred around seeking the all-powerful thought, phrase, trying this and that. But there was a sense of trying.

Then, suddenly, what had been cooking in my unconscious overnight bubbled up to the surface. It didn't have to do with the Overview, though; it had to do with the possibility of using my desktop publishing program, with all its visual artistry potential, to get illustrations and photos onto my website. Eagerly, I let go of the Overview for the moment, telling myself--wisely, I think--that a break would be valuable. And I figured out a most ingenious, and complex, route for translating my photos and illustrations that I have scanned into my MS Word files into a "webpage" on the graphics program, and from there onto my website. Finally, I can do this! I have my photo on my website, at last, so I am a face to go with the words (, as well as some illustrations. I was so tickled with my ability to figure this out--because it was really complicated!--that I kept on going and going and Energizer Bunny of sorts.

Was I procrastinating the Overview writing? Or was I stepping sideways into creation?

To find a way through something that has seemed to be closed in and of itself releases energy, inspiration, hope. The focus of this was getting photos up onscreen. But the illumination that opened the door to my initial thought, "What if I did this...?" was also given to me. This kind of gift is always a breakthrough-joy, and it's well-known in the history of creating that at some point you do have to let go, let things cook, let the side-door of consciousness work for you, stop trying to batter down the front door. We all know this, at least unconsciously; but the desire for something--control? completion?--keeps us at it.

"Good for me!" I thought, linking photos from one context to another to another, back and forth, in and out. But would there have been any linkage to do had something larger than "me" not put the idea in my mind?

So the Overview, and my fears about not knowing how to put this seemingly make-or-break section together, could be well served by relaxing the "me" of it. For now that I look at it, that "me" is the obstacle. "What if I can't do it right?" "What if I can't make it amazing?" This pressure to dazzle constricts the self, and brings forth the false "me"--the facade of the quiet child happier to look at the trees than stand in front of the class and deliver a book report to all onlooking eyes. How can it be that, having written God knows how many pages from as deep and true and intimate a place as I could--for my own sake, for my own heart, and to meet the deep Self rising up to love me--suddenly presenting the cover, the wrapping, of this transparency causes more fear and flight than moving into the real thing? (Though fears were there, until the release of truth sighed through.)

What I love about blogging, to my amazement, is the ability to process. To not have it together before it is together, but to look at this and that, to say what's true in and for the moment; and it's that telling--and more, that self-listening--that opens the door. "Ah," I can now realize, "I'm afraid that the me I will show is not dazzling enough." Ah, a release in the solar plexus at that one. Because my mother, bless her soul and memory, was a dazzler, or at least a person who felt she should be a dazzler (as my book makes clear); and, growing up, my secret shame was that I was not dazzling at all.

In my first marriage, to a wonderful classical musician, when we were both young enough to lie awake dissecting our backgrounds and lives, he said to me one day, "Not everyone had a mother for whom image was everything." That was a revelation to me. Now, so many years later, I know this to be true; and I know how many decades I have put into finding the truth of the felt sense, the truth of the inner knowing; and how an image that doesn't match that inner experience is only empty image, and not of interest to me.

But still--when I find myself in a position of meeting the standards and conventions of someone else, like the honeycomb of the book proposal sections, something old arises that says, "Don't even bother going inside to find out what's there. It's not a matter of what's inside. Just figure out what they want and make it look good." Ah--sigh, sigh. This was most of my life as an undergraduate, sorry to say. I became an A student this way, an honors student. And then, the leaving of that safe, tormenting trail over the years....

None of what I write comes from that place any more. None of what I counsel my clients comes from that place. I have such trust in the wisdom and authenticity of the deeper Self. And yet I find myself a scared child, trying to do it right, sure I'm not dazzling enough to take the stage....

It's good to say these things. They make perspective. I can feel more breath coming in--a sure sign of "in"spiration. In fact, I have been onstage many times--as a singer, and reading my work here and there. And what makes a powerful performance--a "dazzling" performance--is not a good package, but good presence, total engagement at the same time that there is a witness whose existence goes deeper than the "me" in the moment.

What will come out of this? I can't say, exactly. But at least my feet are on the ground, and this Overview--which I might call a sighting from the top of the mountain of the landscape below--begins to belong to the deeper "me."

This is the excerpt from my book that will begin the Overview (perhaps with a sentence of introduction before it):

My mother and I had been downtown walking, walking for hours, it seemed. I was twelve and longing to be more like my friends than like her—a longing that our sudden, inexplicable poverty had only increased. When we found ourselves in a part of town way beyond home, with the sun starting to go down, I said, "I’m tired. Let’s take a bus home."

My mother looked down at the pavement and growled, "We don’t have the money for it."

The sky was streaked with pink. It was the about the only thing with color. There were no trees at all, here; everything was paved, and the brick smokestack buildings of the projects down the street were grimed into grayness. Suddenly, something about these projects looked familiar.

"I think that’s where Carole Schreiber lives," I said, pointing, just because it was an anchoring point, and just because it was true. Carole had been my counselor in daycamp, sixteen years old to my twelve, vivacious and pretty, with thick curly black hair. She was worlds apart from me: she wore makeup and smoked cigarettes, and joked familiarly with boys. Yet she was kind to me, she smiled at me often, I grew inches when with her, from the look in her eyes.

My mother straightened up, hearing this, and her eyes brightened. "We’ll borrow a dollar for the bus from her," she declared, pleased with this inspiration, and tugged me forward with finality.

My mother strode before me on the way to Carole’s building, plowing the air on her four-inch high heels as if she were squaring back her shoulders to approach a bank for a loan. I dragged my heels behind hers reluctantly. "Do we have to?" I muttered. "I don’t mind walking home." This reversal suddenly seemed preferable to showing up at Carole’s door and having to endure my mother’s asking her for a dollar. I would have walked home in the dark, exhausted, in a flash rather than present our abjectness as a family to Carole’s sophisticated eye.

"Don’t be ridiculous," my mother retorted, gathering speed. "We’re almost there."

I saw "Schreiber" listed by the doorbell when we reached the project’s front door. Now there was no excuse. We rode up in the elevator not talking, my stomach clenched into a fist. "Here it is," my mother whispered, tracking the apartment number. And then we were standing together in the hall right in front of Carole’s apartment, my heart pounding wildly as my mother reached her finger out to ring the bell.

I wanted so much not to be there that I could scarcely breathe. At least if my mother did all the talking. Maybe I could acquit myself silently, could convey with my eyes or a tilt of my head that I was sorry, I’d been dragged here, this was not my idea….

And then, at the crucial moment, when the door opened up a crack and there was Carole looking out at me with an expression of surprise but welcome, with pink curlers in her wound-up dark hair, my mother ducked behind the corridor wall so that I was left alone.

"Yes?" Carole asked quite sweetly, because it was obvious that I would not have rung the doorbell if I had not wanted something.

I stood open-mouthed and mute, suddenly betrayed in front of my idol. Yet I could not fail to ask for money, since my mother was in earshot behind the wall.

"We, I, walked all the way here," I fumbled lamely. "I didn’t mean to…. It got late…. I didn’t expect to get so tired. Could I borrow…?" The "I" tasted sour in my mouth.

Carole smiled with kindness and ease, and went back inside to get her wallet. She gave me a dollar from it when she returned. "No rush in paying it back," she said, looking beautiful. "Good luck. I hope the bus comes soon."

And only when the door had audibly closed with a click did my mother stick her head out, as if scouting whether the coast was clear. And when her whole body came into view, I saw that her shoulders were more erect than before, as if during her time behind the wall she had been addressing her own embarrassment with some internal military drill.

The bus came quickly, along with the night. I paid for our fare with the dollar "we" had borrowed. We were silent the whole ride home.

Copyright © 2006 by Naomi Rose, from The Blessings Ledger: A Journey to Find the Union of Money and Compassion. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"The Last Mile Is the Hardest..."

It is an overcast day. A cold has settled into my chest. I work to keep it from my heart, to find light inside. Last night I lay on the couch in the dining room with a lovely load of books from the library--as much getting outside as I could do. I read bits and pieces of Lives of the Composers, by Harold Schonberg, who believes that the person who writes great music is as important as the music (the architecturally sublime Bach came across as stubborn, angry, visceral). I read a book about--blogging! (I still can't get photos on this thing; I think I need JPEG and a digital camera. Technology keeps running ahead of my short legs.) It was a very nice book, by a woman named Castro, published by Peachpit Press here in Berkeley. I read a book about retreats and residences for artists, with great interest, and realized that all this book proposal writing has brought me much more confidence about the ability to propose other things, later on. I thought about applying for residencies in my general area of California and Oregon and Washington, and even places I've never been, like Minnesota (not in winter). I realized I was envisioning wanting uninterrupted writing time to complete The Blessings Ledger once the editor at the publishing house accepts my manuscript for publication.

I am not, apparently, a person who can visualize whole cloth what I want and jump into it. Certain pieces have to become realer to advance the next frame of imagining things as possible. I could try to envision myself reading to crowds of thousands, singing into the sky, creating harmonious prosperity from the innermost place in my being. But for now, to know that I could apply for writer's residencies and be served meals while I write amidst rolling hills, traveling creeks, arching horizons, is a large and wonderful step.

I have been so left-brain focused for so long. I do give thanks for this ability. But sometimes I feel tired, even worn out, and in need of a breath with no purpose other than to enjoy the miracle of breathing. The irony is that this is always available to all of us. Every moment. Whose insistence on left-brain living is this, anyway? My introjected own.

The book proposal creeps to completion. Creeps, reluctantly. The Overview has, now, certain details in it--Elizabeth Lyon's good book suggested making a "problem/solution" list so you can present your book as THE solution for the problem, whatever it is. So, grudgingly, obediently, I did this. Actually it was valuable. I'll include it soon. It's just that when a tiny bird perches outside my window on a tree and helps the branch lose a leaf, am I right there to witness the miracle? Living in both worlds...isn't that always the task, the challenge, and the dance?

Why is "the last mile always the hardest"? What makes the almost-there part so much of a hurdle? Is it fear of the ending of this phase? Fear of being catapaulted into the unknown, even the successful unknown? There must be something to it, beyond my own experience, for this cliche to even exist. Is it remembrance of being born, cellular memory of that last push? I was born in the days of forceps deliveries, and though no one ever told me that had been my means of birth, I'm pretty certain it had to be. So at the very end, when all that movement, effort through the canal of passage between the worlds is almost over, your own juice, fear, eagerness is taken from you and something mechanical pulls you out into the cold, denting, for the moment, your tender skull...

As I write this, something feels right about it. For I have, for a long time, feinted in the almost-end, forgotten my strength, wished for some external reprieve, deliverance, as if the memory of being forced out before I was ready was still upon me.

I can barely describe what relief comes about simply in saying this, here, on a blog read at least by Prema, and maybe no one else. To know what is moving me and not moving me, and to have a root-cause for it, is a relief.

And there is a way in which that last-ditch effort required does ask for an outside intervention. Except that it is not outside oneself, just larger than the ego's expenditures of limited energy. It's not about despairing, now; but it is about surrendering. Letting it all go, trusting in what happens, whatever it is. Appreciating the opportunity to have given myself all this concentration and muscle.

Here is the comparative "problem/solution" chart:

PROBLEM: We don’t have a common language for what lies beneath our problematic relationship to money.

SOLUTION: This book provides that, by reaching into the foundation of self-distortion and adaptation that afflicts most of us in childhood, and follows us into adult patterns

PROBLEM: Therefore, people feel isolated (even if they have money) and ashamed, or at least confused—a vicious cycle that doesn’t lead to healing

SOLUTION: By following my story and identifying with me, readers will be led on a healing journey that will affect their own consciousness and relationship with money and one another

PROBLEM: While there is a good deal of attention on money management in books, ads, classes, there is much less attention on the inner emotional and spiritual life; therefore, the fix is from the outside in

SOLUTION: By exploring the inner relationship to money, as it comes out of a dimming experience of the divine and an increasing narrowing of the self beginning in childhood, this inside-out approach heals the root of the dysfunction, allowing its symptoms to disappear and be replaced by outer fruits of the healing

PROBLEM: A mechanical approach

SOLUTION: A holistic approach

PROBLEM: Our inner lives are disconnected from our relationship to money, and this shows up in the culture at large—e.g., consumerism, emotional isolation

SOLUTION: By relating all things to do with finances to the inner life, a thread of continuity becomes apparent—magical links through time, and evidence that life seeks to fulfill our true desires

PROBLEM: Our financial template is essentially patriarchal

SOLUTION: A feminine, being-centered relationship to abundance, in gratitude to the earth for what we are already given, offers us all that we need

PROBLEM: The focus on financial independence has created not only strength and higher salaries but also a false-ego relation to life, as if we can control everything

SOLUTION: Financial interdependence is healthier template of human financial interaction. It mirrors how nature works, and relieves the burden and stress of holding up the world by oneself

PROBLEM: Debt is staggering, per individual, family, country—and it is the norm

SOLUTION: Getting out of debt is not only a financial experience but an inner experience of clarity, forgiveness, and redemption

PROBLEM: More money doesn’t necessarily make you more happy

SOLUTION: Experiencing a positive connection between the inner and outer life provides meaning, spiritual awe, and the realization that we are co-creating our world.

PROBLEM: Understanding and managing money is usually mediated by experts

SOLUTION: You can find your own way, in a way that works for you, and have your own direct experience and self-trust

PROBLEM: Most of us don’t get to go inside someone else’s evolving intelligence, trials and errors, aha! Moments, etc. We just see the finished product, or what we think is the finished product, of, say, someone standing in line at the bank counter, dealing "perfectly" and privately with their finances.

SOLUTION: The point is to see the work in progress—the evolution of ability and understanding, in a human realm. By coming along for all the narrator’s learning curve, including the missteps, the despairing, the finding her own way, even figuring out how to apportion her deposit while standing at the bank, the reader (a) has access to the inner workings of an illuminating mind, and (b) learns how to trust their own capacity to learn, and apply it to the otherwise "external" realm of finances.

This needs to be prioritized and greatly edited! But though I don't tend to like lists, particularly comparative lists, I must admit that it gives details to fill in the blank of my almost-at-the-end mind. It may be part of the forceps delivery, but this is the hospital I'm birthing the book's presentation in, and with God's help not only will I make it to the end of the passage and into the light of a friendly new world, but the dent in my skull will right itself soon, and the soft spot where the real passage between the worlds takes place will somehow still manage to whisper me home.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Book proposal saga, & fruit from unexpected trees

I completed even the "About the Market" part of the book proposal. It took a marathon of days. Again, I began with an "I have no idea of what to do, here" and over time--lots of time--ended up with a section so solid and filled with relevant statistics that it ended up convincing me.

So as they say in spiritual life, all of God's qualities are available to us. It is our own conditioning and limitation that shrinks us to fit the boxes we were put into long ago.

Not that I fully enjoyed this part. Searching for statistics on how many books were sold in various categories so I could build a case that there is a real market for my book was not my idea of a good time. My right brain hungered for poetry, perfume--hungers I ignored, while searching on the Web for figures. I didn't always find what I thought I was seeking, but what I did find kind of suggested the route I ended up taking. I know this is a teaching of value. The back-road approach, even to statistics.

I come from a family of artists--writers, and my father was a visual artist as well. This was my legacy, my dynasty. Much suffering in, perhaps because of, being creative--or because there was no place for it in the culture, or even in their own families. Survival was so paramount--the lives of post-Depression second-generation Americans, brought up in one language, fending for themselves as children in another, bridging the worlds at the kitchen table. Self-creation was my parents' avenue to liberation.

My father, who had what might be called a pre-self-individuated tribal consciousness (sometimes called "enmeshment" in the psychological literature) liked to talk of the family as "we." "We are artists," he would announce, bringing me into the fold by patrimony rather than direct calling (at the time). And, the corollary: "We aren't good at math or science." This was his effort to console me when I came home crying in high school after failing my upteenth math test. It was as kind a gesture as he could give: don't worry, it's not your fault. You simply aren't constituted to think as a scientist, a mathematician. Because we aren't. Because you are of the we. And we are artists.

Well. That one was years in the seeing, the dispelling. It still is. Sometimes, in my spiritual life, calling on the inner witness to my unconsciousness, I think that witnessing oneself is not only a spiritual act but a scientific one as well. Any development of objectivity, in the service of a larger perspective, has a kind of science about it. And what about just childlike wonder? "Why is this like that? How does it work? I wonder what will happen if I take this part and unscrew it..." Such questions have led me to become the "mechanical one" in my family (in my second marriage). My first husband was exceedingly mechanical, and I his clueless shadow. So it's all relative. But I think the resurgence of wonder and courage accounts for a lot of that kind of scientific mind. Also, a kind of self-protection, a kind of distancing, such as I experienced when a biopsy was recently done on my arm and I discussed it, with surprising interest (once the life-threatening aspect was put to rest) with my dermatologist as she froze the spot, inserted whatever it is that pricks the skin, extracts a sample.

Is this a digression? Or a winding curve towards something?

Book proposals--statistics--yes, that level too was beyond me and of no interest before. I have a first cousin with a Ph.D. in statistics, and it was like we were from different planets when he spoke of such things. Nevertheless, in the service of putting forth my book in a way that a publisher will take it, I researched book clubs, statistics on women's purchasing decisions, tracked down publishers for sales figures on the 4 books that appear in my "Competitive Book Analysis" section (which I would really rather call only "Complementary" books, since they are all pieces of the puzzle--Jacob Needleman's Money and the Meaning of Life; Lynne Twist's The Soul of Money; Liz Perle's Money, a Memoir; and even Suze Orman's The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom), only to discover--after calling New York City (my birthplace) from Oakland, California--that "We don't give out sales figures, sorry."

Pushing against closed doors. Tired, computer-logged, pushing. Then remembering to stop. And in that space, a whole other idea came. It came while I was walking to the kitchen, washing dishes, doing ordinary things. A break in the pushing. A time-honored method: steep, then stop. The "Eureka!" bathtub method of inspiration.

I didn't have to lean only on sales figures. I could envision the situation for myself. I could find my own comparisons of value. I was a writer; I could write it.

So the prelude to the categories led into them. I wrote:


There is a huge, untapped market for The Blessings Ledger. The very fact that financial pundits, credit counselors, and psychologists have acknowledged money as "the last taboo" (sex having well lost that position in the last 50 years) speaks to how universally money has a deep, unspoken place in our lives.

While there are countless books about the making and managing of money, there are fewer that deal with the intimate, human-journey details of the effect of money on the psyche and soul that eventually show up as financial conditions and patterns. Liz Perle’s recent book, Money, a Memoir, goes in that direction by connecting childhood conditioning with dysfunctional adult spending patterns. However, it does not begin to address the psychological and spiritual root of why we suffer so much around money; why it separates, rather than connects us as human beings. The need for such a book is profound, because human beings in our culture—no matter what their level of income—most often experience separation rather than connection when money comes into the picture.

The Blessings Ledger fills a hole in the market by making visible, for the first time in a truly evocative way, the inner experiences regarding money that play out in outer alienation and the healing path the journey can take. Studies have shown that after a certain point of income has been reached, money does not buy happiness. So it is not enough just to seek money. But to seek how money and the heart come together fills a real need in today’s readers, who are more spiritually inclined as well as more financially savvy. The Blessings Ledger fulfills a soul-hunger as much as a need for financial wholeness.

Comparable Categories Whose Readership Includes
The Blessings Ledger Market

Readers hungry for memoirs. That this book is told as a narrative nonfiction journey, with the evocative language and rhythms of seamless fiction that so easily draws readers into an identification with the narrator and thus into their own lives, strongly suggests a larger audience even than those who are consciously seeking more clarity on their finances. The ongoing popularity of memoir attests to the human desire to find meaning, healing, and beauty in one’s life.9 Reading other people’s stories is one significant way to discover the depth and breadth and value of one’s own, and I believe that people will read The Blessings Ledger for this reason as well.

Spiritually minded readers. Another large audience is made up of people, primarily women, who buy spiritual books. There are various kinds of spiritual books—books that give inspiring advice; books that reveal other dimensions beyond what we see; books that open the heart and soul; books that take the reader through darker places in the human journey in the process of illuminating them. In reality, The Blessings Ledger speaks to all these subcategories of spiritual-book readers, at different points along the way. Volume 1 (the subject of this proposal) illuminates the darker places on its way to the light, and opens the heart and soul (Books 1 and 2 are more shadowed; by Book 3, when the Blessings Ledger proper begins, more light is visible). Later, Volume 2 sheds more light and speaks to the soul; finally, Volume 3 reveals other dimensions and provides inspiration.

I would encourage reaching out to this market not only through bookstores (including specialized spiritual bookstores, nationwide) but also through spiritual organizations, both those I already belong to and others existing around the world. The Internet, for example, provides a huge market for such readers, each site potentially a node for reaching many other clusters of readers.

Readers of books about money. While it’s less likely that readers of Forbes Magazine will seek out The Blessings Ledger unaided, it is likely that people who want to understand the world, themselves, and the place of money in the world will also want to read The Blessings Ledger. This includes readers of such books as Money and the Meaning of Life and The Soul of Money (see "Competitive Books"), but it also includes people who know about such alternative economies as The Heifer Project, and microcredit. In all these examples, money is addressed directly, but less in terms of its management, only, than in terms of the human context in which financial exchanges take place. This readership already thinks "outside the box." In addition, as The Blessings Ledger sales grow and gain momentum, I anticipate a widening outreach to readers who have not thought or looked in The Blessings Ledger direction, but now are willing to and even eager to.

From there, I went into the statistics. I even had footnotes--13 of them as endnotes, to back up my claims. Amazing. I went looking for certain things, found other things, and turned it all into a persuasive sales document. I persuaded myself. With the footnotes, it's a research paper. As I told my husband, my equivalent of a Ph.D. thesis.

As I told a friend, doing all this has shown me capacities I wouldn't have expected in myself, or even needed before this. And I have gained immense confidence in the book--have "sold" myself, that it is worthwhile, there is a market, I can promote it, and so on. At this point, having put all this together for a publisher, I am so engaged in it that I know I could carry it out myself if I had to (though I hope I won't). But there is that about total engagement, about the semi-miraculous process of beginning a task because someone else has asked you to and eventually choosing it, making it your own.

Is this the mystic's path to book proposals? No intermediaries? Everything direct experience, knowing only by really intimately, inwardly knowing?
Scholarship in service of mysticism. Perhaps this is a healing with my scholar-father after all. (In his service, he had to stop schooling after high school to support his family. He was a hungry learner, would have loved becoming a tenured professor; was a voracious reader, an autodidact, my most intimate and pervasive teacher of sheer knowledge. He wanted me to live his dream, insisting I go to college (I would have anyway; we all did, in my generation), insisting I join Phi Beta Kappa when I was nominated (I soared into achievement only once in college, where it became a mix of genuine exploration and compensation for life otherwise feeling out of control in those days), paying for my membership, the metal pin that came with the honor I eshewed) because it was what he would have wanted for himself....

I don't hold this against him. It's good to be able to meet other's agendas, and make them one's own. Only, as with all held-back parental dreams, it would have been so much better if he had been able to have the courage to pursue his own and leave me room for mine. That I'm finding my way so late in life is a blessing; only, sometimes I wonder, what would it have been like to have my way lighted with undemanding love from the beginning? Would I have become, as I wished to in junior high school, a person who carved baskets out of fruit?

It is almost 7 in the morning. I've been up since 2, with conscience things, working them out. This is being written with little sleep, but an appreciation for my life, and the challenge of becoming more and more real and self-accepting. Digressions often appear in my non- non-fiction writing; my husband Ralph, a very succinct writer and editor (a wonderful poet) says my writing tends to be "Faulknerian" in its length and floweriness. This morning I acknowledge the rambling. But I like blogs for this reason. All I see as I type this is a box about 3 inches high. I don't stop to examine what I've said. There is no revision. It is raw; it is the dirt from which the gold may come. (I'm not endorsing mining the earth....)

So, the book proposal again: One more part remains--the Overview, the part that declares what the book is and why it matters. The first thing a publisher/editor/agent reads. I was advised to write it last. I see why. Now I know what all is in the rest of the proposal. I haven't written it yet but I don't seem to be afraid.

I will end with the letter I sent off to the editor at the publishing house who invited me to submit the proposal. I sent it a few days back. It was intended as a kindness to myself. I find I am really coming to enjoy writing letters:

"Monday, November 06, 2006

Dear Vanessa,

In the ongoing inner debate about whether or not to be transparent with a person on whom one wishes to make a good impression, I have decided that I will.

I want you to know that I still treasure your invitation to submit my book proposal for The Blessings Ledger—it has meant a great deal to me for you to actually ask for it. So the fact that you haven’t yet received it, it now being early November, does not mean that I have ceased to be interested, or ceased to work on it. Quite the contrary. It really only means, as Orson Welles used to say in an ad for some winery (I recall the ad but not the brand), 'We will sell no wine before its time.'

From our conversations by email, I have good reason to believe that the 'slow-food' approach is actually welcome to you. This seems to be what’s happening even with the book proposal. While occasionally I wonder if I’m being perfectionistic (as I have been known to be in my artistic creations, though
hopefully not in my actual life), in fact I believe I’m being incredibly thorough, scaling mountains of research and promotional potentials that I have not had to scale at this height and rigor before. I so believe in the healing potential of The Blessings Ledger—all of it, the darker as well as the more illumined parts—that I want to present a book proposal that every single person involved in making the acquisitions decision at NWL will actively want to get behind.

There are many learning curves for me in doing this proposal. I think I mentioned that the instructor of my class said that people would rather write the book than the proposal. And in terms of sheer sweat, stamina, and the requirement to grapple intelligently with the kinds of subjects that, if taught in school, I would consider obligatory rather than electives, I find this has been true.

On the other hand, I would not have missed this opportunity for the world. I have learned so much about what it is to present a book—to find your real credentials; to open to promotional avenues and ways you would actually take up on even if no one helped you; to locate a market real and large enough to convince not only a marketing/PR department, but your own worst inner critic; in short, to believe in the book enough to go to these lengths—that now I feel willing and ready to take it into the world with full presence. I am grateful, too, for the personal capacities I have been given and developed in order to do this proposal; the inventions brought about by that great mother, necessity.

So please do bear with me as I stir and simmer and cook this good brew. I wish this book to be out in the world, and I hope it will be through you.

I will drop you an email line as soon as the proposal is ready to put into the mail….

In gratitude,


And today she wrote back:

"Dear Naomi:

Hi! It’s good to hear from you as always, and I am happy to know about the depths you are exploring in preparing your book proposal. Sounds like solid, worthwhile progress to me.

Please be assured that there is no arbitrary time limit ticking away here at NWL. I would MUCH rather receive a fully evolved proposal than to try to evaluate/pitch an idea that both author and editor know could be further explored/expressed. Nothing rings more hollow to the acquisitions team. Doubt spreads like wildfire when we are around the table at our ed mtgs. It is key to get ’em from the get-go if you know what I mean—well obviously you do know what I mean, and I am grateful for your sensitivity to all the factors involved in acquisition.

Should we decide to go forward (allow me to skip ahead a bit here), I would ideally want to publish this as a Winter title. So W-08 or even W-09. But if that is too soon/late, such a book could be published well at any time of year. We do see a bump in our Personal Growth and Prosperity titles in the New Year zone. These are the only timing-relating thoughts I have right now, and they remain secondary to the organic development of your ideas.

I will gladly have a look at your material when you feel it is ready, whenever that might be. My only tidbit of advice at this point is to not let your perfectionist tendencies become relentless. Otherwise, just stay on your path. Best of luck!

Kind regards,


Isn't that lovely? And it sounds so possible. Talk of the editorial team, publication dates. Wow, this might happen. If I could get an advance large enough to live comfortably on while I finished the book....

And yet already, this is already a dream come true. I always wanted to be invited to submit a book of my heart, and to have a deep, warm human being on the other end. And to this extent, at least, it is here. Such a far remove from my old days of terror at sending my heart-on-paper out into the void. I understand, in this moment anyway, that that was an extension of family dynamics--the absent father, the void of his listening, my lonely heart searching for a place to land and be seen and met. So all this work of attempting to do that for myself bears fruit in unexpected ways and places; and all the prayers, and all the being present for my beautiful clients, in their own fears and doubts--understanding them all but sharing none of them in their case--ah, fruit comes. Fruit comes from expected trees, and gifts spread by the wind of not-even-whispered breath of prayer. God knows what is in our hearts. It is our courageous task to hear, to not project family hurts onto the largeness of God, and to be thankful.

Thank you for reading. If you have read this and have anything to share, please do in the comments. Blessings.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What are we proposing?

"Humility is the principal thing that must be learnt in the path of training the ego. It is the constant effort of effacing the ego that prepares man for the greater journey. This principle of humility can be practiced by forgetting one's personality in every thought and action and in every dealing with another. No doubt it is difficult and may not seem very practicable in everyday life, though in the end it will prove to be the successful way, not only in one's spiritual life but in one's everyday affairs. The general tendency is to bring one's personality forward, which builds a wall between two souls whose destiny and happiness lies in unity. In business, in profession, in all aspects of life it is necessary that one should unite with the other in this unity, in which the purpose of life is fulfilled."

This quote is from the Sufi teacher, Pir O Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1926), one of my most essential guideposts for what it is to live a human and divine life. It is taken from a daily email I receive, one that I always look forward to. Some days I nod my head sagely at what arrives, agreeing, "Yes, yes." Other days he says things that have never sunk to even the top of my awareness; and still other days, I am in a state of grateful weeping for his guidance, as I note the walls around my heart, the squint around my eyes, the survival fear in my thoughts and even my musculature. Murshid gives me the choice to tune to the real life or to the appearance of things. When I am caught in the appearances only, I suffer even without knowing it. My heart, lost to me, is of little use in sweetening my life. When I am looking in the direction of a caring, compassionate heart, I know that most of the things I spend my time with and worry about do not really matter so much. Even when my ego is pricked by what I read, there is always a place in me that is eternally grateful.

So, I have been writing about my book proposal, under the belief that staying with my own real experience is somehow of use to the transformation of the planet. Having been brought up to care for others at one's own expense, this is a very radical assumption. Had I not heard it from countless spiritual healers, I might brush it aside. But some days I know it to be true. I feel it within. I know that I am as microcosmic as any living being, and that the more room I make for the largeness of Being within me, the more I can reflect the reality in others; maybe, in you.

The book proposal is nearly done. Now I have both an editor and an agent waiting to look at it--had I mentioned the agent? One would think I'd be whooping and celebrating, but mostly I have been working. Marathon bouts at the computer, learning to do things I once abhored and disparaged. I mean, I teach writing without outlines, etc., and here I am, making headings and following them with statistics, information; reading a good book on book proposals (Elizabeth Lyon, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write)--which only began to make sense to me after I'd taken an in-person class on book proposals, taught by food writer Dianne Jacob--and being the great student! Underlining the essence and particulars of what Lyon says will work, and following that, rigorously. "This is my Ph.D. thesis!" I announced to my husband Ralph one night, as I set the table for supper (he had cooked it, not for the first night in a row).

But over time--what seems like much time--I discover that although I'll be really glad to be finished with the project and mail it off (my intention, this being Wednesday, is to do it by Friday), I have learned much more than I expected I would. I have learned that I can be disciplined, I can do what I began not wanting to do. I can sustain it, I can even find parts I enjoy; and perhaps above all, I can enjoy the very drive to do it, to stay with it. I can enjoy the development of new capacities in myself. And, somewhere, I trust that these capacities are not limited to the writing of a book proposal. That this much willingness, dedication, research (instantaneously--the Internet has made this kind of thing amazingly easy), and advancement on the learning curve ("Oh, okay, this section needs an opening, a body, a conclusion, I can do that") could not be limited only to the writing of this proposal. If I have it to use, then I have it available for other uses, perhaps more humanly significant uses. I recall the Sufi story, "Fatima the Tent Maker," one of my favorites. I will tell it to you sometime.

So, I have synopses of every chapter, both written and unwritten; a workable trajectory of where all 3 volumes (yes, 3!) are going (so much for my outline rejection); an "About the Author" section that makes me look spectacular, and it's actually all true (though as I wrote to a friend recently, it's not real to have all your life in a major musical key; the minor keys account for a lot of soul stuff); a Book Promotion section that began as a "God, what do I do about this?" and ended up as 13 pages (yes, I go for complete) of very specific, varied, and impressive existing accomplishments and connections, upon which my projections of how I will promote my wonderful book, The Blessings Ledger, in the future have feet to stand.

Maybe later I'll post the actual "About the Author" and "Promotional Plan."

Or maybe I'll be really kind to myself, take a breath, and write about how the tree outside my window is just beginning to lose its leaves, and this year I will remember that it is slow to gain them back--not until around May will it join its companions in the back yard, full and sashaying with leaves--and I will not despair when it is the skeletal shape long past when I think it should be.

Poetry, yes, comes easy in some ways. All you have to do is look out the window, look up at the sky, look at your cat, your child, your friend, your husband's handsome, craggy face on a day when your heart is open. Poetry comes in the door. Book proposals, on the other hand, seemingly so much more common a way to be and think, come harder. They are the effort, the muscle of thought, of wanting, of planning, of defending, yes: "I am who I say I am, I can do this, I am worth this..."

Only by doing the inner work to recognize that this is a social and economic, perhaps literary function, and not a personal statement of worth, is it possible to dive into the challenge and discover riches there. If it were a matter of am I worthy? such shiverings of doubt would ensue. And they have. But perhaps being willing to move in the direction of what I would once, not that long ago, have turned my back on contemptuously, has helped me understand what the later books of The Blessings Ledger are actually all about, and what even the first volume hints at: We are so much more than we have told ourselves, based on what we have been told ("told" includes without words). We are the inheritors of everything the divine has and is, and as we move toward our deepest yearnings, and do the things that come easy, and the things that come hard in service of what we most love, we inherit more capacity, space, love, blessings, abundance, joy, beauty, harmony, and beyond, and beyond, and beyond. I began the book seeking a way to live in the world of money and inner healing, having no financial inheritance after my parents passed on. And over a great many years, with many twists and turns along the way, the truest thing I discovered is that I have an inheritance from a divine source that has no limiting conditions, and no end. Only, that it is for me to open to it; to efface the cervix of my defenses, and be willing to let in the illumination of how the divine wants to live and express through me.

So, there are other kinds of proposals one might write. A proposal for self-acceptance, knowing what the Self really is. A proposal for peace of mind. A proposal for seeing the best in oneself and others. A proposal to live in the moment. A proposal to accept gaining and losing leaves, and yet always knowing one's binding to the Tree.

Thank you for reading this. I feel more in tune, having made room to say it, run-on as it is. (Blogs let you do this; as a perfectionist writer/editor, I would never let such a thing go out in print.) I hope it has helped tune you, in your way, as well.