The Peter Principle–Reached

The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter and published in 1969. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”. Text and illustration from Wikimedia.

An email arrived in my inbox yesterday, advising me of updates to WordPress that MUST be made and if said receiver of email hadn’t done so yet, click on this link.

That was the first step on the above stairway to chaos. I successfully deleted said email because I don’t click on ANY links in email and especially from people I don’t know.

But then, I went to WordPress and had a long chat, meaning a chat via text not voice, with an accommodating tech who said, “Hmmmm. That’s curious…” and proceeded to put me on hold while he checked it out. Didn’t come from WordPress, he came back to write. Just delete it as spam. But your email address is visible to anyone and perhaps I should buy Privacy. But my email address isn’t on my site, I said, and he went on to explain how some site or another has all these addresses listed, but I could buy Privacy from, oh, I don’t remember the name, something like BOTARMY (probably not but all in caps, but whoever processes my payment to Bluehost for hosting my site name) and said I could buy Privacy for my account there.

Now. Mind you, I’ve been on some kind of computerized communication since the late 1980s, let’s say more or less 1987, when I bought my beloved Smith Corona Portable Word Processor on some rare trip to the states and lugged it back through suspicious Mexican customs to sit on a desk, in front of a window, in my apartment in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, only to lug it back to Washington D.C. in 1989, to lug it to Hawaii in 1992, to lug it to Georgia in 1993, to take it to Santa Fe in 1994, where I bought my first HP computer in 1995 and signed up for email. The Smith Corona and its disks went into an overhead storage shelf in my little 600 square foot adobe in Santa Fe. I have become fairly adept at electronic communication in the meantime.

That’s probably more than you want to know and this is likely to become a really long post.

So anyway, I’ve been on a real computer with Windows and email and all that stuff since 1995 and I advanced up the stairway rather successfully. I do, in fact, have stored files from those first disks and even a machine to plug into current PC and read said disks. Maybe I had floppies, but I can’t remember and I don’t have any saved so maybe I didn’t. I do, however, have saved disks from the Smith Corona, and if anyone knows how to read said small disks, and I’ve looked, mercy, I’ve looked, let me know.

Anyway, back to yesterday. So. WordPress guy said contact my site name provider, in short. And I did, and had a realllllly long chat with said provider who used to host my website but now doesn’t but has to host my name because WordPress doesn’t have that ability yet…although I wish they would get it as it would simplify my life. At least it would have yesterday.

So at any rate, I advanced to the next step after very long chat, and since I rarely go to Bluehost except to re-sign up again to host my name (isn’t my name MINE???), I’d forgotten how to get there and what to do once I did. The chat person was patient. It was a long chat of me going back and forth trying to make sense of what I couldn’t do. Fortunately (although it didn’t feel fortunate at the time), I lost the connection to chat person and couldn’t retrieve it. But it went something like this:

Okay. Here’s the problem. church06 with new password doesn’t work. The old domain cotincarnation.org doesn’t exist anymore so I still can’t log in.

5:03:55 PM Anujna P can you login using : cotincarnation.org or janetsunderland.com

5:04:33 PM Janet Sunderland I don’t know. let me see.

5:04:51 PM Anujna P sure

5:08:35 PM Janet Sunderland I can get in and I can update information, but I can’t get to anything. It says the account was ended in 2012.

Anyway, this went on for a very long time before the chat dropped (and possibly, Anujina was really tired of answering my inane questions and stopped). However, I had managed to go in, change the password and log in name, signed up with Privacy (it’s a one click deal wouldn’t you know) and, oh, yes, updated the credit card info.

But I called anyway and spoke to a very kind and patient tech who walked me through what I’d done, set me up for automatic renewal, and reminded me how to get around on the BlueHost site.

And then I got off the phone, noted all information the the passcode book, and took a nap.

I have risen to the level of incompetence with computers, that much is obvious.

But I shall persevere. I mean, what am I going to do if I don’t? My history, if not in the stacks of journals I lug from place to place, is in computer files.

Whine. I guess I can whine. Not particularly charming or effective, but you have now, if you’ve reached this point, read the whine and possibly even absolved me. Maybe you’ve even laughed.

The end.

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A Memoir Class to Remember

Memoir and Personal Essay: Four Weeks: June 5 to June 26, 2017; Monday evenings, 6:30 P.M. Central Time

Have you thought about writing your memoir? Is there something bubbling inside that you really want to write about? Do you have an idea for a personal essay to submit for publication?

If you’re not sure, think about this question: What’s the most important thing that’s ever happened to you? Now. There’s a story!

You’ll learn to think about writing a personal essay or a book-length memoir like building a house, focusing on structure, situation, and story. Structure (the foundation and studs) – defines the beginning, middle, end, and time-line; Situation (the walls of each room) – describes what happens, along with characteristics of people, place, and sensory details, to build a picture in the reader’s mind and lift the words from the paper into another’s experience; Story (the color scheme, furniture, and decorations) – presents the writer’s experience and journey of self-discovery to create a reliable narrator for the reader. All of this comes together to bring the You alive so readers will live through you. Suitable for both experienced and emerging writers.

Participants will complete a manuscript of about 1,500 words to use as a stand-alone piece or the start of a longer manuscript. We’ll use a private Facebook page as a communication tool, and I’ll offer ideas or suggestions for your work in progress and do a comprehensive revision on your final piece. I’ll also give you suggestions on where you could publish a personal essay if you choose to and/or how to publish a manuscript on Amazon.

I’ll be teaching online live through Zoon and will send out a link each week for you to log in. It’s easy. All you need to do is download Zoon from the above link, create a log in and password, and when I send out the email reminder, just click on the link in the email at the designated time. It’s very easy to use. (https://zoom.us/feature). I suggest using Chrome for your platform, both for Zoon and for our Facebook work, as it allows greater mobility online. For example, you can upload a manuscript on Facebook using Chrome.

To register go to the Shati Arts webpage. And stop saving those great ideas on a spare envelope!

A former memoir workshop participant wrote: “As an instructor, Janet is engaging and direct, providing structured guidance and feedback while also encouraging my unique writing to emerge.” | “Most inspiring for me was how she emphasized the power of our personal stories: valuing, articulating, and writing our truths to share with others.

I’ll also be teaching Spiritual Writing in October so stay tuned for information on that later. You can check out the spiritual writing blurb on the Shanti Arts website below the memoir blurb.

Best wishes in your writing,

Janet

…with a little help from my friends….

I’m a memorist who explores how personal history shapes our choices and how learning to accept and forgive failed choices leads to a more fulfilling life.

or

I’m a memorist who’s spent her life learning how to love and how to forgive herself and to keep a sense of humor as I mentor others in those skills.

 

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with a book, Be The Gateway, by Dan Blank. A great book on marketing…(oh the dreaded word marketing).

His writing is easy to read and his challenges to look at the way we present out work are, well, challenging. For example, in writing a bio, which I’ve done and revised and done and revised over the years, beginning, of course, with my name and Janet Sunderland is a….and all that, Dan says not to. An eye-opening sentence: “Nine months after someone reads your book, what do you want them to think quietly in their heads about the world you have opened for them?”

I finally arrived at self-forgiveness.

That was in the Craft a Mission Statement chapter on page 39. That ten page chapter has taken me ten days to complete. After writing my bio, which took a long time, the above statements are what I crafted as my mission statement.

The thing is, it’s not just my life I write about. I write about my mother, family, land, and other people, so it seems the first is perhaps more effective overall. Maybe I need to add keeping a sense of humor to the first one?

Here’s where a little help from my friends comes in. What do you think of them? What ideas would either give you? And after reading the below bio, which I will insert into a query letter to agents, what do you think of it? I could really use some feedback and those of you who know my writing after all these years of reading it (thank you all so much), probably have a better handle than anyone.

So here ’tis…the bio. Please comment, give feedback, say whatever you think might help me, including “this confused me…” (I’ve heard that a lot with my various and varied pieces, so feel free.) One of the things Dan Blank wrote for an opening statement: “something that your ideal reader would read and say “YES! This!”

BIO:

Most of us struggle, at some level, in outgrowing childhood. We were too tall or too short, too loud or too quiet, too fat or too skinny, too argumentative or too passive, and sometimes abused physically, emotionally, or sexually. Sometimes parents divorced, or a parent or grandparent died, leaving us stunned and fearful. We call it trauma, but it’s a wound that’s won’t heal.

Written on the Reverse is a memoir to explore how childhood trauma led me on a journey of transformation to heal and learn who I am is enough. The journey taught me forgiveness for myself, my father, and my grandfather. I also learned how difficult it is to trust love and how rewarding.

My journey from Mexico to Washington D.C., to a healing community in Hawaii, to Georgia for family tasks, and finally to Santa Fe recounts how my destination was always written on the reverse of a crossroad sign in ink destined to remain invisible for an unspecified span of years. All I had was trust in the journey to connect my dreams to reality. Throughout my journey, beginning in Washington D.C., I dreamed of this man as I named him, who, in dreams, came to me when I was struggling, or just to check in, and whom I met in Santa Fe.

In short, the memoir offers hope. For over twenty years, I’ve helped others learn to trust their journey, practice forgiveness, see themselves as valuable, and heal leftover wounds. While I’ve changed the world one person at a time with one-on-one mentoring and in college public speaking and writing classes, this memoir will guide a wider audience.

I’ve earned a BFA and two graduate degrees, but I’ve written all my life, or rather from age eight in my first diary. My mother was a writer and my grandmother a poet. My childhood in Kansas filled itself with words and books. My first published poem was in a college literary magazine. Since then, I’ve published essays and poetry in many journals, and a collection of poetry, Written on the Reverse, by Finishing Line Press. As a memoirist, the most life-changing books were Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (I began keeping a journal), Natalie Goldberg (most of hers), and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I no longer teach in college but I do lead writing workshops. My husband and I live in Kansas City in a 1924 built house. A Romare Bearden quote is taped to the window in front of my writing desk: Artists are like mice. They need old houses where they can roam around and nobody bothers them. I tend to wander around.

******

Thanking you all, again, in advance. In many ways, you have been my gateway for years.

J.

 

Enter Spring (soon we hope!)

The Spirit in Spring

 Redbuds
Redbud

March 21, 28, April 4th: Three one-hour online evening classes.  Contact Me for details.

Treat yourself to renewal. Join me for a quick burst of energy as spring arrives. Write open your heart as you write open your senses to shake off winter doldrums.

The focus on sensory details will help you develop seeing, hearing, touch, smell, and taste and how to incorporate those into your writing. The focus isn’t so much on a finished essay, although I’d be happy to see one if you want to submit it, as on learning how to richly describe the five senses in writing. Each week’s class will build on the previous week, but much of our work will be on finding freedom in writing.

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Best Writing Workshop Ever!

post-rock
Shot by Tom Parker at Jerry Stump farm

Last weekend, I was part of the best writing workshop I’ve ever attended. Ostensibly, I was the teacher, in Marysville, Kansas for a residency of teaching and reading my work. But the participants and their family stories made the workshop unforgettable.

We have a farm in Marshall County, seventeen miles from Marysville, and while ours is a long history on the land from the late 1800s, the family scattered like cottonseeds. None of us live there. Cliff and I go up and stay for a week every once in a while, but our parents were the last generation to live on and work the land.

The photo is not from our farm. It’s from one of the participants, Jerry Stump. His friend, Tom Parker, shot it on the farm Jerry’s  father bought and worked east of Blue Rapids, Kansas. As you can see, the land is still in production, and the photo is stunning.

On a side note, look up Tom Parker. He’s a remarkable photographer with a precision eye. I met him a few years ago when I did a workshop in Blue Rapids.

Many of the participants had boxes of documents and research, and we talked about ways to shape so many pieces of history. Jerry had the stories in his head. He’d driven one of his daughters around the farm and told her the stories, then a second daughter wanted to hear them, and a third. He came to the workshop to learn how to save those stories and maybe get them written down. He was a mathematician, he said. Not a writer. His experience with the daughters gave us a perfect format to talk about ways to reduce the overwhelming layers of historical documents many others had into a story.

Post Rocks have their own story.

From Jerry: “Post Rock is the proper name, so-called because it was used in fencing, especially where hedge posts from Osage orange trees were not available, such as further west in Kansas.  Hedge posts last forever as do post rocks. This post rock was used as a hitching post, a place to tie up your horse or carriage team.”

We had hedge posts on our farm. They do last forever! I can attest to that. And although some may lean a bit on our farm, they are still there and they do NOT rot. I helped dig holes, by hand, for some of them.

Post rocks come from farther west in Kansas where no Osage Orange trees grow; in fact, few trees in general grew in that western part of the state until settlers began planting them.

From the Kansas Historical Society: The area known as “Post Rock Country” stretches for approximately 200 miles from the Nebraska border on the north to Dodge City on the south. The limestone that is found here comes from the uppermost bed of the Greenhorn Formation. It was out of necessity that settlers in the late 1800s began turning back the sod and cutting posts from the layer of rock that lay underneath. By the mid-1880s limestone fence posts were in general use because of the widespread use of barbed wire.

The first time I saw Post Rock with barbed wire astounded me, growing up in eastern Kansas as I did. Rocks with barbed wire? Around wide stretches of grassland.

People who don’t live in Kansas think of the state as flat, flat, flat. And in Western Kansas, it is that. But the eastern third is the tail end of the Flint Hills with rocky outcroppings and hills. Our farm, for example, sits on a rise that gives us a view of the countryside for ten miles in each direction. Our east pasture sinks down into a rocky gully.

Jerry’s farm is in southern Marshall County lies east of Blue Rapids, named as you might guess, from water: The Big Blue River. And while there are plenty of flat fields, there’s also the outcroppings and springs and hilly gullies that defy farming. And the powerful Big Blue.

Blue Rapids, Kansas – Wikipedia. Among the first projects in 1870 were a stone dam and a wrought iron bridge built on the Big Blue River. A hydroelectric power plant was then added to provide power for manufacturing and for the town. The power plant was destroyed by a flood in 1903. In the late 19th century and early 20th century there were four gypsum mines in the area. The population peaked around 1910 at over 1,750. The public library, built in 1875, is the oldest library west of the Mississippi in continuous operation in the same building.

So much for nothing to see in Kansas except for miles of flat roads.

The next time you’re driving I70 through Kansas and bored, get off the highway, Manhattan is a good place to exit, and drive north. You’ll find some remarkable country, not boring at all. You might even spy a Post Rock if your wander off to the west.

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