Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Diversity: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…(A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Well, it’s time for another Collaboration with a Purpose post, and this month’s theme is diversity. We can talk about anything — cultural, in particular — that highlights the importance of diversity.

Take a look at this nifty picture, created by fellow blogger Sadaf Sidiqqi:

collaboration-diversity-640x400

As to why I’m doing this? Well, culture is very important. I think we take it for granted in the United States, because we’re more diverse overall than most places in certain respects. (For example, in Racine, Wisconsin, where I live, we can get all sorts of different types of food, such as Thai, Japanese, Indian, and of course Italian and Mexican, though all of those are filtered through an American lens.)

But that diversity, in some ways, is under attack. Rather than celebrating all the unique and interesting people we have in this country, and also around the world, we’ve seen a resurgence of what I can only call tribalism — that is, “My tribe” (i.e., America) “is better than yours.”

Note: I don’t like tribalism. I think it’s self-limiting and self-defeating. I think we were put here to become better, wiser, and kinder people…and we can’t do that if we huddle in our own tribes, being afraid of anyone who’s not “us.” Moving on…

Still, I believe in diversity. I believe there must be a reason for all the different cultures in this world, and I think they’re there so we can learn, and grow, and improve ourselves. Even if it’s sometimes a laboriously slow process, it’s worthwhile.

And before you say it, while there definitely are some cultures I do not appreciate at all (ISIS, anyone?), we should have experts who try to understand why they do what they do, in order to protect the rest of us. Again, moving on…

Diversity, overall, is a good thing. Whether you were originally from Poland, Finland,  Ireland, Malaysia, Egypt, or any points more exotic, you are worthy and interesting and valuable. You are worth getting to know from your own perspective as best we can manage it, we who aren’t from Poland, Finland, et. al., and that’s one reason why I think we must begin to embrace diversity rather than shun it.

See, diversity brings understanding, but it also brings richness and a better life. And that richness has to be part of what the Higher Power wanted us to learn while we’re here on this Earth. (Otherwise, why are we here at all?)

Now, go and see what the other folks are writing about today, all right? I’m sure there must be some really interesting takes on diversity out there this time…(as there always are).

The other collaborators this time around are listed below, along with some of their best prior quotes from the previous Collaboration with a Purpose posts (as compiled by blogger Nicolle K.):

  • Addison D’Marko (“If you want to achieve complete happiness one of the things you are going to have to do is care less. By this I mean stop putting so much thought into the things that do not matter.”)
  • Camilla Motte @ Moms on the Go (“We want to be help to the helpless. We all need love and support and I pray this community will be that for you.”)
  • Jothish Joseph @ TheJothishJosephBlog (“Anybody can write “Extra” before “ordinary” but only people of courage dare to earn it…”)
  • Ipuna Black (“None of us are perfect or come from perfect backgrounds, but this doesn’t mean we can’t aim for a positive and fulfilling life. The life we all deserve.”)
  • Jane Love @ Harmonious Joy (“People who have a genuine say and a true voice of their own… not just an echo of some celebrity they think they love.”)
  • Mylene C. Orillo (“Where I’m at right now is a testament that ‘Dreams really do come true.’”)
  • Sonyo Estavillo @ ‘Lil Pick Me Up (“I am here to champion anyone from the successful and confident folks, to those that are clinically depressed.”)
  • And Nicolle K @ Stories of a Highly Sensitive Introvert! (“Success, for me, is when I spend my days feeling happy, peaceful, fulfilled and without fear of lack.”)

So, there you have it!

And do leave a comment, please…I always appreciate hearing from my fellow bloggers and friends. (What else would you like me to talk about, for example? I’m always interested in new blog subjects.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 5, 2017 at 8:00 am

Just in Time For Halloween, New Poems and Stories at the TTB e-zine!

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OK, sometimes I just have to rhyme…

Folks, do you want some new and absolutely free reading material? Especially from me? (As you’re here at my blog, I’m going to assume the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”)

Well, look no further. I have a story, “To Exist within Memory,” and a poem, “Break the Dark Lens,” up at the Halloween 2017 edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. (I abbreviated it above as TTB e-zine because it’s part of Twilight Times Books.) In addition, there’s also a chapter reveal for my most recent novel, the LGBT-friendly CHANGING FACES, and there’s an author interview by Mayra Calvani as well — so if you have ever wanted to know more about me or my writing, here you go.

portrait in garden

Mind, if you like what you have read with regards to CHANGING FACES, you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up an e-book copy for just ninety-nine cents…and I do hope you’ll consider doing just that.

So go check out the TTB e-zine. Read some free stuff. Then go pick up your copy of CHANGING FACES today, and get to getting…who said every treat on Halloween has to be full of calories, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Staying Stable in an Unstable World

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Lately, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve had the feeling that the world just isn’t as stable as it used to be.

Granted, maybe it was all illusory, that feeling of stability. But feelings need to be taken into account, or you can’t keep yourself stable no matter what’s going on around you.

In the United States, we have a President who shoots from the lip (or at least from “the Twitter”) as often as he possibly can. He doesn’t seem to care if this bothers foreign leaders, or his own citizens, or anyone else; he just does it, because “Trump’s gotta be Trump.” (Yes, I’ve heard this a great deal.)

We’ve never before had a President like this in the U.S. We’ve had blustering Presidents, sure. (Some might say Teddy Roosevelt qualifies, here. And certainly Warren G. Harding.) We’ve also had Presidents that got in under odd circumstances (witness the 1876 election of Rutherford B. Hayes). But we’ve never before had someone who seems to delight in recklessness and obnoxiousness in this particular way.

That President Trump doesn’t seem to understand the pain of new widow Myeshia Johnson, the wife of deceased U.S. Army Sergeant LaDavid T. Johnson, just adds the cherry on top of a whole bunch of unadulterated rudeness and disrespect.

And as an American citizen, I can’t help but feel terrible about this. I don’t understand why this particular man can’t seem to understand that being the President requires empathy as well as logic, and caring as well as commerce.

Not that Donald Trump is alone in seeming to bring the caricature of “the ugly American” to a new (and highly disgusting) sheen. There are all those people who marched in Charlottesville in a white supremacist march, too, pointing out there are still plenty of others in this country who have no interest in tolerance, respect, or basic human decency.

And that also makes me, as a rational person, feel less stable. Less like the light I can bring, and the creativity I keep trying to use, will make any difference.

Regardless of anything else, those of us who have a shred of creativity need to keep using it. This is when it’s needed most. And we can’t stop when it’s hard; we may have to take more breaks, and we may have to give ourselves time to rebalance ourselves sometimes, and we may have to remember that what we do still matters no matter what it looks like…but yes, indeed, we must use our creativity as best we can.

Why? Because we need to do everything we can to stay on balance. Live the lives we were born to live. And refuse to let anyone, regardless of pride, position, or Presidency, take us off our course.

So, in addition to doing my best to stay creative, I’ve also resolved the following things. I’m going to reject bad behavior, whoever it’s from. Reject words that make no sense, whoever says them. Reject those who just don’t seem to get it that we all need to pull together, and do what we can to bring more rationality and respect and tolerance and (dare I say it?) kindness into this world.

And if I can do all that, I believe I will feel more stable, centered, and whole.

What do you do to stay stable in an unstable world? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Resist the Echo Chamber (AKA Negativity)

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Folks, I’ve heard a lot recently about negative reinforcement, which from here on out I’ll call “the echo chamber.” And it needs to be discussed, because too many of us never think about it.

Whether your echo chamber is from a person or from the news (as the news tends to repeat negativity over and over and over again, as that’s what many viewers seem to want), or even from your own past experiences, you need to throw it off.

Why?

Let’s put it this way: If you are inundated by negativity, it’s hard to create. It’s also hard to believe that anything will be any better than it is today.

(Which probably is why it’s so hard to create, if you think about it. Anything worth creating takes time, and if you are worrying yourself into a frenzy all the time due to the negativity you see around you, you can’t believe that time will be well-spent. Which is a lie, but I digress.)

One of the hardest things in this world to do is to throw off that echo chamber. It is liberating to do, once you realize you need to do it, but just getting to the point you can even have that thought is hard.

Some of you may be going, “Barb, what on Earth are you talking about this time?”

Simply this: If you live your life defined by negativity, you can’t help but be weighed down.

But if you see your life as full of possibilities, as best you can, you have a better shot at throwing off that echo chamber and doing whatever it was you were meant to do.

(In my case, it’s creating. I love to create, whether it’s music, words, cooking…it gives me fulfillment and peace, when I can do that. But since you’re here at my blog, you may have realized this already…)

You must throw the echo chamber away, and with great force, and lose those weights that confine you. Because they do not — I repeat, do not — define you.

How do you resist the negativity in your life? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 11, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Self-Belief and Writing

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Folks, with the recent posts about self-acceptance, I figured I’d follow it up with how self-belief and writing mix — or don’t.

In my own experience, when I am more confident in myself, and I know that what I’m saying makes sense, I am more likely to make sense in writing than when I am more insecure.

And yet, insecurity is part of what drives a creative person. I can’t deny that. (No creative person can, really, not if he or she is smart.)

The trick is to balance the two. Be just insecure enough to want to write, to need to write (or play music, or compose music, or, I suppose, paint, draw, act, or any other creative pursuit), but be confident enough in what you can do — your belief in yourself, as it were — that you can actually sit down and do it. Without fear. Or at least without the fear stopping you cold.

I’m not sure how that all works, mind. In my head, right now, I’m picturing a space station for a YA milSF story I’m working on. And as I tend to think two-dimensionally, this is a real problem. My main character, a young girl and a military prodigy, would not be thinking in 2D.

How do I get to where I need to be, so I can describe the space station I hazily see, and make the readers believe in it?

Or, here’s another conundrum I’m working on right now.

I’m writing a novel in a friend’s universe. (No, I won’t tell you which one. I won’t unless/until I pull it off. I do have permission from my friend to give it a try and an interested publisher if I can pull it off.) I know I don’t write like my friend. But I’m going to talk about characters that interested me, that my friend could not work on, as his main character needs to be doing something else.

If I think too much about how I don’t write like my friend, or that his readers won’t like what I’m doing because I’m not my friend, well, that will stop me cold.

But just a little insecurity, in that I want to find out what’s going on, and can refer back to what my friend’s written so I can use that as best I can to ground my writing…d’you see? (Or am I thinking too two-dimensionally again?)

Finally, I have a story going in my Elfyverse that’s taking a long time to gestate. I have two new characters who will be interacting with my known characters Bruno, Sarah, Lady Keisha, and more…and I like these characters. But it’s hard sometimes to figure out how to get those new characters into the mix without making them seem lesser than the two titanic mains, Bruno and Sarah, especially as this new story isn’t about Bruno and Sarah. (Instead, it’s about new love, unlooked for, with more mature folks.)

So, should I think about how people won’t like the story, because it’s not about Bruno and Sarah, and they’re at best peripheral characters? Or should I think about how there’s room for more characters at the Elfyverse inn?

And just a little insecurity may be useful. But a whole lot of it just stops me cold, and makes me trot out the “Fear is the mindkiller” speech from DUNE.

As I said, you have to have enough belief in yourself (self-belief, natch) to keep going, even when you don’t see an end-point. (Yet.) But you also have to work with your insecurity, and keep it at bay enough while using it at the same time to inform your work and make it thrive the way it was supposed to do all along.

(If this is still clear as mud, my apologies.)

What do the rest of you do, when you’re trying to create something? How do you strike that balance? (Tell me about it in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Why Must We Be So Negative?

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Folks, the other day I read an interesting post by my friend Tajwar Fatma, she of the blog Life As We Have Never Known it. She’d just passed ten thousand hits on her blog — a truly impressive feat, if you think about it — and she decided to talk about how much negativity she’s had to overcome during her newfound blogging career. (It’s called “Overcoming Negativity,” and can be found here.)

This got me thinking.

Why must we all be so negative all the time?

Granted, there are plenty of negative things in this world. Politics often makes no sense. The weather is too hot, too cold, or maybe just too boring. Prices are rising. Everything we seem to like gives us cancer; everything we don’t like is touted as curing everything down to the common cold, but is ultimately just good, solid food that we continue to dislike.

So, we can eat healthy and hate it. Or we can eat what we like and clog our arteries (at best).

It seems like no matter what we do, we can’t win.

I have no answer for why others are negative. But I do have an answer for how to overcome your own negativity, at least in part.

First, as Tajwar put it in her blog, “Don’t let negativity get to your mind and heart. You have to lose in order to win. And if you can’t handle criticism and negativity, you sure can’t handle praise and victory!”

Second, you need to realize that some of this negativity, regardless of how personal it feels at the time, is not being directed at you in specific. It’s because people are frustrated, upset, angry, or sometimes even jealous of the fact that you’re still trying, but they’ve given up.

Third, it’s important to keep going because you know in your heart that what you’re doing matters to you. (For example, I continue to write, despite the struggles and life-worries and frustrations, because writing matters very much to me. And my stories matter, too.)

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Or that no one will ever care, either.

As a barely-succeeding author (someone most people don’t even know about), I’m here to tell you that so long as you care, that’s all that matters.

So keep doing what you are. Work hard on yourself, and spread joy and light and life wherever you can. Try to overcome the negativity in this world as best you can (mind, constructive criticism is not negativity, but that’s a separate issue and I’m not going to get into it now).

And most importantly of all: Whenever you get a negative thought about what you’re doing right now, do your best to throw it out. (Or better yet, laugh at it, as Tajwar suggested in her blog.) Don’t let that negative thought stop you from doing whatever it is that you need or want to do…because that’s the only way that you truly lose.

And I see no purpose in that. (I hope you don’t, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 25, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Work/Life Balance: Is it Achievable?

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Folks, lately I’ve been wondering about the above title — is work/life balance achievable? And if so, how do you go about it?

See, over the past week or so, I’ve been dealing with family health issues. I’ve also been working on my writing, editing, and staying in contact with a few friends here and there in order to remind myself there are good things in the world.

In short, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

There are so many things in this world I can’t do much about. And when I’m confronted with those things, I sometimes forget about the things I can do something about — that is, take care of myself; get adequate rest; remember to eat properly; get a little exercise here and there; enjoy the scenery; work for positive changes wherever possible, but try not to completely exhaust myself in the process.

And I can’t believe I’m the only one to ever feel this way.

It’s sometimes easier to focus on what we can’t do, because we’re often taught that it’s wrong to focus on ourselves. Even in a good, positive, healthy sense, where we’re trying to create something or help others or do the best work we can, it’s hard to stay focused on that when everything else seems to be falling apart.

So, is work/life balance achievable?

I think it is, but it’s a tough go sometimes. It’s like running into a headwind; you have to remind yourself that you’re doing your level best, and it has to be good enough. Just keep trying, refuse to let the despair win, refuse to let the exhaustion win, and keep going long enough so it becomes an ingrained habit…then, maybe, it will give you peace of mind to know that you’ve done everything you can on your own behalf.

It’s important to do what you can for yourself.

But how do I put that into practice, under the circumstances? Mostly, I try to remind myself often that it’s perfectly OK for me to put myself first and get the rest, food, and time I need to do what I have to do in order to feel like a fulfilled person even as these other things aren’t working out no matter how hard I try and no matter how much effort I put into it.

Just remember that while you do need to work on controlling what you can control, it’s really hard to do. We’re taught to be rugged individualists, mostly, and having to leave so much up to the Higher Power is difficult. (It really is.)

But don’t stop trying. Definitely don’t stop believing that better things are possible.

Because they are. Even when you can’t see them.

So yes, I do think work/life balance is achievable. And I’ll keep working on it. (How about you? Tell me in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm