INTERVIEW WITH LISA RACIOPPO – AUTHOR OF ‘FROM BROOKLYN AND BACK AGAIN’

Lisa Headshot - Preferred by Lisa - Copy - CopyDebut author Lisa Racioppo will be launching her book ‘From Brooklyn and Back Again’ on Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 1 to 3 pm, at Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, NY.  Lisa is a delight to know, and I recently sat down with her to chat about the book.
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What inspired you to write what is essentially a memoir?  I have been a writer for as long as I can remember.  I have always loved to develop stories, and I realized, once I traveled outside of Brooklyn, New York, where I grew up, that my experiences were quirky, unique, and quite funny to others.  As I told my stories, my friends, colleagues and clients encouraged me to put pen to paper and write my memoir. In addition, on a business trip in 2004, I traveled to Kansas during tornado season.  I was stuck at an airport for quite a while, and, to pass the time, bought David Sedaris’ book, Me Talk Pretty One Day.  I didn’t know anything about Sedaris at the time and wound up laughing out loud for the entire rest of the trip.  Everyone on the plane wanted “whatever I was having.”  So, you could say David inspired me to write my story. I thought to myself, “If David can write so openly about growing up in his family and the strange and hysterical events that took place, then I certainly could write about mine shamelessly and hopefully let others see humor through some challenging times.”

You have a full plate with two boys and a full-time job. How do you do it and when do you find the time to write?  Time has never been my friend nor on my side. That being said, I wrote the bulk of this book during my travels for work and time apart from my family.  However, time spent adding all of the nuances as well as the initial self-editing, which takes quite a bit of time, was carved out in spurts when the kids were sleeping, while I was commuting, or any free moment that I could carve out. When you are passionate about writing or anything that you love to do, it’s important to make the time because it is this passion that is fuel for the soul.

Book Cover - Front - JPEGHow would you describe the book? From ‘Brooklyn and Back Again’ depicts a series of unique experiences that crystallize not only the character of 1970’s Brooklyn, but shows how those experiences proved to be transformative, sowing the seeds for life lessons that I was able to tap into later when I needed them.  They became the bedrock for not only a successful career in business but for being a jumping off point for finding the courage to go in search of a better life, period, when I saw that the one I was in wasn’t working as well as it could. The Brooklyn girl in me had fun providing the reader with glimpses into the art of junkyard sports, opposite side of the street parking, and the many intricacies of just plain living on the block.  I’ve written the book in a way that hopefully captures a variety of snapshots of the eclectic lifestyle moments I’ve experienced, many from a by-gone Brooklyn, others from my numerous travel experiences.  I’ve tried to make the scenes funny, yet also provocative with frankness and as much sincerity as I could muster. I hope chapters such as ‘Encounters with the Police Precinct,’ ‘Trips Through the Graveyards of Savannah,’ and ‘Being Safe in Sweden’ will intrigue the reader and provoke a desire to learn more about my journeys – both actual and in search of a better life and lifestyle.

Who is your target audience?  While I hope that the stories in the book have a universal appeal, on a certain level, the areas of special interest would be to those:  who live, have lived, or have grown up in Brooklyn; those approaching life changes who are looking for a message of hope and empowerment; those with an interest in the spiritual and/or psychic world; those with an interest in travel; and, those interested in the world of advertising – a broad spectrum, I think!

What do you want readers to glean from reading this memoir?   That coming from a humble past can be a strength and an asset when you approach life with humor, an open heart and determination to succeed!

Posted in Advertising, Brooklyn, David Sedaris, Growing Up in Brooklyn, Humor, Memoir, Park Slope, Raising Boys, Travel, Uncategorized, Women, Women in Business | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

REESE WITHERSPOON, WHERE ARE YOU?

Author Working - Stuart and ReeseThe gentlemen in the photo is Stuart O’Brien​. He is 91 years young (trust me on the young part). He published his very first book earlier this year, a WW2 novel based in part on the love story of two Montclair friends, one a guy who practically ran out of high school at the age of 17 in 1940 to join the Marines and fight in the Pacific – the other, a young woman who would, despite living a full rewarding life, hold him as her great love for over 60 years. The story behind story, however, is for me as fascinating as the book itself because Stuart has told me that he first felt compelled to write the book following his 60th high school reunion in 2003 when he was asked to speak about Kenny as one of the 7 members of the class who had died for their country. He has said ‘Kenny was in my head for over 10 years.’  Kenny (Bodie in the book) would be killed in 1943 during the Battle of Saipan. His remains would be brought back to Montclair for burial, but years later the roots of a tree would begin to intrude on his gravestone. In 2012, initially unbeknownst to Stuart, a local doctor visiting her father’s grave (also a WW2 veteran) would notice this and would galvanize the powers that be to save the grave. These powers would include a wonderful local Marine commandant who would muster the troops for what would be a moving grave rededication in May of 2012. They would also include Stuart as the link to Kenny’s past as, at the time, no one could find any living relatives in the area. It would be happenstance that would bring Stuart, the doctor, and the commandant together in 2012 as he, also, had been concerned with the grave’s condition. The rededication would receive prime news coverage in both The Star Ledger and Montclair Times. ANYWAY, this is a book where,although the hero dies halfway through, the reader is enthralled and moved by all the richness of this thing called living that follows. The research he did to re-create the pre-war and war years was meticulous.  You can almost taste the milkshakes in the local Montclair soda shop where the kids who came to be known as ‘The Greatest Generation’ gathered, and you feel the steaminess and terror, coupled with the relentless need for the young marine turned killing machine to muster up the grit and determination to muster on. THIS picture touches me so, because: 1) Stuart’s drive has him now preparing to turn the book into a screenplay; 2) Reese Witherspoon and her production company are the objects of his desire to whom he would like to pitch ‘Wildwood’ as a move; and, 3) I’ve never seen Stuart in shorts and have to say the sight is quite fetching.

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On My Way to Peacham, VT

Stuart - At Outside TableI decided today that I am definitely making the time to travel the 6 1/2 hours it takes to get from Morristown, NJ to Peacham, VT next week to visit one of my company, Turn the Page Publishing’s, new authors, Stuart O’Brien. Stuart and his wife Sue invited me to visit earlier this summer when we first met in Montclair, NJ, and this is the first time it’s become doable. When we met, Stuart and Sue were driving through NJ from their winter home in Juno Beach, FL for their usual summer stay in Peacham, where they have kept a home for many years. As Stuart spent many of his formative years in Montclair and loves to re-visit when possible, and, as that is where TTPP is based as well, it made perfect sense for a meeting at that time.

Stuart is an engaging, handsome,  quietly tough (I think) and intelligent gentleman who just happens to be 90 years old. I felt an immediate gravitational pull to him as well as Sue from that first meeting and through all the phone calls that have taken place since. Stuart is a dynamite writer, and ‘Wildwood,’ his first-ever book, a World War II romance novel based on a few factual events, pulled me in right from the start and kept me glued to the page,  as they say, all the way through. The most succinct thing I can say about Stuart’s writing is that it PUTS YOU THERE – wherever ‘there’ may be. Whether it is a high school soda shop scene or a gruesome beach landing, you are there – holding your breath – watching a kiss from the next booth or hiding in the jungle, behind a tree, perhaps, watching senseless human slaughter – you are definitely there. The book is set for release in 2015 – hopefully early in the year. Anyway, as part of the ongoing PR efforts, I am traveling up to Peacham to increase my up front and personal knowledge of Stuart, the man and writer. What I know for sure is that he has given me a whole new way of looking at 90-year-olds and how age really is just a number – how you are never too old to try just about anything if you have the courage and the drive. I’m looking forward to visiting, not to mention, seeing the foliage – what a bonus – I’ll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, here is Stuart’s FB Author Page – I invite you to stop by and Like it: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stuart-OBrien-Author/707371219302209

 

 

Posted in books, love stories, new authors, nonagenarians, World War II | Leave a comment

Books Books Books …

Turn the Page Cover Photo

If you have come across and are reading this blog, I’m hoping it’s because you love to read. Me, too! I’m currently reading The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan, and am loving it. What are you reading?

For your potential future reading pleasure, below is a list of the adult books currently available through the publishing company for whom I work, Turn the Page Publishing. I may be a bit biased, but I think they run a good gamut of interests:

‘Angels Come in All Shapes and Sizes,’ by Hevine Schmidt – The animals on Hevine’s rescue ranch somehow manage to stick around, even though they’re not technically supposed to be ‘here on earth’ – Go figure!

‘Bruce Springsteen in Focus, 1980-2012,’ by Debra L. Rothenberg – Deb’s photos of The Boss, spanning over 30 years, are a tribute to one of the greatest rock ‘n roll performers of our time and a marvelous walk down memory lane to boot – ‘Bruce’ was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 5 photo books of the season – Deb’s photos rock themselves!

‘DJ, The Dog Who Rescued Me’, by David Toussaint, Photographs by Piero Ribelli – Irresistible true story and photo book of a cute pug who comes to live with and lift his gay owner out of a bout with depression with the always-incredible backdrop of New York City.

‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw’, by Barry Jackson – Boy meets girl in the Big Apple and together they overcome their troubled pasts – forge a future filled with hope and happiness that will be tested over and over with her cats, an autistic child, family and financial problems that continue – but the love will win – and the cats will help in amazing ways!

‘Lube of Life, a Tribute to Sex, Love, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Boomer Age,’ by Mindy Mitchell and Edward Land – Whatever you do, don’t give up on love! – Mindy and Edward were geographic on-line dating opposites but began a friendship anyway – that soon grew into love and devotion with excellent doses of sex and humor along the way – Good for not just Boomers but would-be lovebirds of all ages – Big Screen Project in the works here – Read and tell me who you would cast as Mindy and Edward!

‘Note to Self,’ by Alison Nancye – Beth is 37 and living a humdrum life but all that changes one day when she starts to listen to ‘that inner voice we all have’ – you won’t believe the adventures she has – inspiring ‘notes to self’ at the end of each chapter serve to remind us of some of the simple life’s lessons we tend to forget – Big Screen Project is in the works for Note to Self – Stay tuned!

‘Once Beneath the Stars’, by R.S. Lentin – Moving story of a former high school star football player who becomes paralyzed after being tackled in a game – you will feel the weight of his granite-filled limbs and inner emotions but also the courage, love, devotion, and humor that go into the heady mix leading to the astounding climax that sets him free.

‘The Afghan Queen, A True Story of an American Woman in Afghanistan,’ by Paul Meinhardt – A look back at a time and place in Afghanistan that is well worth remembering – While women in the USA were continuing to work for equal rights in the late 70’s, a New Jersey businesswoman named Lela was traveling freely throughout Afghanistan, welcomed by the tribal chieftans and everywhere she went, buying and exporting Afghan tribal art – a true story filled with adventure, revolutions, sex and devotion, that has been lovingly brought to life by her husband through their correspondence from that time.

‘The Only Buddha in Town,’ by Alanna Maure with Matt Benacquista – Don’t take yourself too seriously and chillax – this is a quick, insightful, and funny read by one of the edgiest Buddhists I know – good advice we can ALL benefit from

‘To Sleep … Perchance to Die,’ by Donald Grippo – Oh, what a murky tale of love, sex, revenge and some awful deeds that are done by some of the most dreadful characters you will ever meet – you will not believe how low they stoop – a sexy, Shakespearian twist story I wasn’t able to put down until the end!

‘Voluptua,’ by Jason Martin – What do French literature, sex, shamanism, and the most potent healing plant in the world (Ayahuasca) have in common? Read Voluputa and find out! This book has mystery and adventure – sex and healing – all in one package. Big Screen plans are in place as well. Stay tuned!

For more information on Turn the Page, go to www.turnthepagepublishing.com

Posted in Animals, Ayahuasca, books, Bruce Springteen, Cats, crime fiction, Dogs, love stories, new authors, Photography, publishing, worth a read | Leave a comment

One Woman’s Make Believe Story

The saddest thing and the worst thing that happened is that he ever led me to believe that following what took place between us that we could remain friends …  He told me once that he believed he had no heart to give … I always felt that he believed he had no soul as well … Very sad … I’ve been trying for a long time now to come “back to my senses” … actually, I’m still not there … In all honesty,  I’m not sure I really want to come all the way back … and besides, maybe  I never had any to begin with  … I have done a lot of self-soothing over the years though … I use my writing to help with that a lot … I always wished he would talk more to me about that … I always felt that I had so much more to learn from him if he would only share the knowledge …. I at one time almost begged to become his clay … to be molded and shaped … to be put through my paces – to be forced to hone my skills, whatever they are … I was willing to work … It was not to be though – so I have come to accept that as well … I still wish from time to time that it were so …

In my imaginings once, I made up a story that thousands of years ago, we were two little roly poly toddler children. My name was Mara and his was Josiah. We lived in the ancient times when some of the three-year-old boys  were sacrificed to the Fire God Malach each fall.

This was a time in our lives that we were just starting to socialize with the other small children in our village. They were simple times.  I was slightly older than Josiah and had been out in the world socializing with the children for a few months while he still had to be inside near his mother. I got along well enough with the children, but sometimes did not like the roughness and cruelty of their play.  I would prefer to be off on my own, and sometimes my mother, who I knew loved me, would chastise me for day dreaming.  When Josiah finally made his entrance into our play world, the children all accepted him for both his beauty, which was extreme, and his physical dexterity. He could play all the rough games with a unique grace that gave him the respect of all the boys, so he was never picked on.  Nonetheless, Josiah was different from all the children. He was not afraid to go off and be on his own – and all the children – even the toughest of the boys – accepted it and did not make fun of him as they sometimes did of me for my dreaminess and forgetfulness when we were playing. I would find myself following him, and he would let me. We would go to a private place in the courtyard or the stable or the fields nearby, and we would talk together. He would make up the most wonderful stories and make me laugh, or he would listen to me talk about the things that confused me about the roughness of the children. Once, when I started to cry a little with the pain of it, he gently touched the tear at the corner of my eye and said, “Don’t cry, Mara – it is nothing … they cannot touch you”.  But, Josiah did not ever cry. He only smiled, even if sometimes it was a sad smile. So, I would always look for Josiah when we would be out with the other children, and the best times for me were when we could go to a private place and talk and play together.

But, as the months passed and it became closer to the fall, I felt a chill in the air about me and watched my mother and the other mothers become more silent and still, with a worried look on their faces. I did not understand why.

I started to feel a fear growing inside of me. I no longer saw Josiah so much, nor as many of the children. We did not go out to play as we had before. We stayed with our mothers and tried by watching them to see if this bad time would pass.

Then, the Terrible Night of the Fires came. In the late afternoon, I saw the men leave the village and go towards the mountain outside. They all looked very very angry, and I became instantly terrified just watching them. I remember wanting to go outside and find the other children. I wanted very much to see Josiah, but my mother grabbed me roughly and brought me back in the hut. She gave me something special to drink then, and I slept for a very long time, but in my dreams – no, they were nightmares, I could see nothing but the bright, terrifying glaring light of the fires – and heard the anguished screams and wailing of women. It was too awful for my little brain to take in – too big – too vast. And so, I slept, and in my slumber, I somehow came to know one thing: I would never see Josiah again.

On the day I awoke, I found my mother kneeling by my side, looking very worried. When she saw that my eyes were open, she gave a great shout of happiness and took me deep into her arms sobbing with great joy.  I found out after that I had been very very sick and had almost died.

After that, my life continued as it should, but my family left that village, never to return.  I never again had to see or know about a Night of Fires.

I grew up, married, and had many children, who in turn had many children, and theirs also. Finally, I died, an old woman, respected, loved and admired for her kindness, wisdom, laughter, and wonderful stories.

Seemingly, I had forgotten Josiah. I somehow knew to never mention his name again or to ask about the Fires, but I never did forget him. I just proceeded to live my life. My youngest granddaughter, however, would one day tell her children about standing by my death bed and holding my hand during the final moments of my long, richly lived life, wondering at the smile on my upturned face as I finally died, my arms slowly extended in peaceful greeting, murmuring his name.

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Lunch with Michael at the Friars Club

Michael Washor, one of Turn the Page Publishing’s new authors, took TTPP President Roseann Lentin and I to lunch at the Friars Club today to work on plans for his November 13th Book Launch there. Michael’s book is a World War 2 historical fiction novel entitled ‘There Are No Heroes’. It’s based on the exploits of one of his wife’s uncles who, though the uncle did not speak of it much, was one of the many unsung heroes of this war. Despite being captured three different times, Nathan Roush (his real name) managed to go behind enemy lines and create havoc for the Nazis. Michael is a retired defense lawyer, married to the love of his life (re-discovered after 50 years, which is worth a book in itself). He is a also character all by himself! Never at a loss for words and with a humorous, sometimes bawdy take on life, Michael is never dull company. I’d never been to the Friars Club and loved every bit of today’s visit. The food was delicious, the company delightful, and Michael, Roseann and I were able to get a lot of organizational work done. In between all this though, our laughter rang through the halls, occasioned by the many stories Michael pulled out of his head that dovetailed perfectly with our brainstorming. I think his November 13th audience is due for a treat and I further think that students of history are going to be quite taken with ‘There Are No Heroes’.

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Posted in books, publishing, World War II, writing | Leave a comment

Well, Hello World – Let’s Try Again

Well, goodness – I created this Blog in the Fall of 2012 – I must be the queen of procrastination and the non-writer of all non-writers. What I DO do is to help writers market themselves.  Usually somewhere along the line someone who has been the recipient of a number of email exchanges, will tell me I should write.  And I smilingly say thank you – and then, just don’t.  While somewhat adept at the give and take of repartee and succinct telling of whatever the tale, advice at hand should be, when it comes to my own ‘stuff,’ I seem to be helpless and hopeless.  My brain can make up lovely daydreams – it’s just that when faced with putting them – or thoughts in general – on paper (when will this phrase change to ‘on the digital screen I wonder – I prefer on paper though, I have to say), I freeze – wonder to myself if all the ‘really good thoughts’ haven’t already been shared – think my puny little mind meanderings wouldn’t really count for much in the grand scheme of things when there are so many others, good and bad, mind you, who will tell you they just ‘love to write’.  Hmmm – for me it’s like exercising – I know I’m going to feel better after I do it – or at least START doing it – at first, it’s (for me, that is) going to be a bit agonizing.  So, why do I worry about starting to write at all if I feel like this?  It’s crazy.  But it’s also because of, not only all those outer voices, but that inner one.  Oh, I didn’t mention that one, did I?  Yeah – she’s like a neglected child – which is a sin because I have been a wonderful mother in my life so far – to four fantastic children.  It’s this child though who, although she knows I really do love her after all, has been content to sit silently, and manage to subsist on whatever crumbs have fallen from the table over the years.  Oh, it’ s not that I have mistreated her shamefully.  She has had a good home – no bars on the windows – people have, as I mentioned earlier, treated her more than kindly.  I guess I have managed to dress her up well enough as we have progressed through the work and social worlds I’ve lived in.  It’s just that when no one else is around and it’s just her and me, that I know she feels neglected and lost – somewhere in time and space.  I have begun to think of trying to reach out to her and make things better between us while the rest of our intertwined lives take place, but struggle, just as I do when it comes time to put on the work out clothes, with making that first move – and then the next – and the next after that – and so on. I have thought that opening the door has to occur first.  That makes sense, doesn’t it? I think I need to do that to SEE just where she is in the somewhat cobwebbed, lonely place where she currently resides so that I can know how to better lead her to a better place.  Ok, I think this has all been nothing more than my hand on the knob … is that a start?

Cookie on tablet 2

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