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Thursday, February 16, 2012


Have you guys heard about it? I hadn't until a friend of mine sent me a coupon. I do not have an e-reader of anykind though I've been encouraged to own a Kindle. Honestly, I do not know which reader I want. I only know that I need to get one because a lot of what I like to read is only available in digital formats. Uncle Wil uses LuLu and Eileen uses Smashwords.

It is really pretty easy. And it is very economical. Most of the digital format books I that looked interesting are under 10.00. And I can get GERMAN language books. Yeah, no. I looked and Matze's autobiography is not available. Are you kidding me? That is the FIRST thing I looked for. So anyway; I did not have to download new software or anything since I chose to read in a PDF format that my Adobe likes.

And it turns out, if I ever finish my novel I can have them publish it. The terms for publishing seem very reasonable too. And form what little I was able to investigate, it is the easiest format to use. Seems like it works a lot like Google Docs which is great because I am intimidated by other publishing software. And honestly, it is hard enough to write the words. I do not want to worry about software too.

So the whole reason that I even know about this now is that I signed on for a contest. All I had to do was explain anti or pro Valentines Day to win a book. When I got the winning email is when I read the fine print: digital only. So off to Smashwords for the second book win in as many years as I have made the attempt.

As you recall I won The Happiest Days of Our Lives lottery. Verrah cool. And amazing. I knew when I hit the send button that I was going to win. And this year, when Eileen offered the chance I took it. It was mostly a lark though. Cause I didn't have that gut feeling. But I wanted to enter because I thought it would be cool to have something from her.

I went to school with Eileen. We were not close friends. We took some of the same art classes during which I would drool all over her talent. And her innate ability to find the neatest art supplies which was only surpassed by Michelle Ward some 20 years later. I remember a set of  very thin pastels. Vibrant and luscious sticks of color sitting in orderly rows in the white plastic tray. I think she'd found them in Chicago over that weekend. I've never seen anything so small since. Nor any colors so rich. I remember a few glimpses of some of her sketches and thought "I want to do that".

We also took a class called Forensics. Not so much about human cadavers as it was about expression. I still remember the piece from Julius Caesar that we did. I was supposed to die dramatically. No matter how much we rehearsed I just could not find the nerve to fake die. Eileen was encouraging and empathetic. And I promised her that when the time came I would do what I needed to do. And I did. I just did not do it with the dignity and aplomb she did her dying with. I chose comedy. Specifically, I chose the Bugs Bunny approach and finally fell onto the desk of a student audience member. I chose the student because I knew I wouldn't feel weird being that close to him or her. But I can't tell you who it was.

You see I was so certain that the rest of my team was going to kill me for sure that I blocked 90% of the event from my internal hard drive. Eileen was cool with what I did. Mrs. B said she wasn't sure comedy was the way to go but engaging the audience as particpant worked for her. I was definately the weakest link of the ensemble. But no one made me feel stupid for that. As a matter of fact, on the bus ride to the next competition at the end of the week Eileen was very encouraging with regard to the butterflies in my stomach. She handed me her headphones and suggested I calm down with some music. It was a  cassette of New Wave music, most of which I had never heard before. I became obsessed with music after that.

And it started the growing differences between myself and the people that I chose for friends up to that point. I took two terms of Forensics. My best friends could only handle one. They went to vocational school and I stuck around plying my talents surrounded by people of a like mind. Like I said, Eileen and I were not hang out after school kind of friends. But as we progressed through the terms and each got closer to the graduation goals our classes were smaller and more intimate. And that meant that we were there for one thing... to move forward with our life choices. We were not competing for anything. So in those classes there was more encourament & supprt. And of all among us, I remember Eileen and Bob being the cheerleaders.

So how was the book? I won a copy of Do or Di. It is definately a young adult novel. No vampires or werewolves. Sorry. But a really sound story about finding yourself and dealing with the choices that you make.The main character finds herself having a grab at the brass ring in her chosen field while her personal choices threaten to tarnish it. In the end she triumphs over herself.

The cast of supporting charactersalso illustrates a very important life lesson: Be comfortable with yourself. The quirky teen has no angst about who she is, she is simply navigating the system. And none of the other characters make apologies for who they are.

Eileen is good about avoiding tired cliches and making accurate metaphors to describe what the main character is thinking. I found myself laughing a lot. I got to the end of the book and thought to myself: this is exactly the non-judgemental thing that I needed to hear right now. It was refreshing and encouraging. But most of all.... inspiring.

But you don't have to take my word for it.*

*Happy Birthday LeVar Burton.

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