Saturday, January 24, 2009

Who in the World Is Luke Song?

Imagine working at a job you love and doing it well. Many people don’t get to experience that satisfaction, so those of us who do are very lucky.

But now imagine that you suddenly and unexpectedly receive international recognition for what you already love doing. It’s something many of us dream of, and it’s wonderful to hear about it actually happening to someone. After all, if it can happen for them, then maybe it can happen for us.

Take Luke Song, a Detroit milliner/hat designer. For him, this Monday was probably just like most days in the life of a hat designer. On Tuesday, when Aretha Franklin took her place at the inaugural podium, the eyes of the world were riveted, not on her but on her hat. Whether you love it or not, there’s no denying the hat is an attention grabber.

That creation was designed by Luke Song, whose family business, Mr. Song Millinery, has been making hats for several decades. This week, thanks to Ms. Franklin, everything came together at just the right time and place, and he became fashion industry icon.

According to the Detroit Free Press, “By Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Song had sold hundreds of hats. A store in Dallas had sold 500 more, and the material was running out. ‘People are calling from England, asking for the hat,’ said Luke Song, who designed Franklin's chapeau. ‘I'm shocked. I had no idea. We did not expect this.’ ”


And then there’s the US Airways pilot who landed his disabled aircraft in the Hudson River last week. I’m guessing that Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III has always been an outstanding pilot, admired and respected by his family, friends and colleagues, but most of his passengers would only have known his voice as he welcomed them aboard and hoped they had a pleasant flight. Now he’s a hero—the pilot we all want in the cockpit the next time we fasten our seatbelts and ensure that our seatbacks are in the upright position.

How does a person handle being catapulted into the limelight after working in relative obscurity?

If you’re Luke Song, you immediately get to work on an entire line of bow-inspired hats and plan to display them at the Women’s Wear in Nevada trade show in Las Vegas next month.

If you’re Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III (isn’t that an absolutely perfect name?), I imagine the talk show hosts are clamoring for a chance to interview you, and I’ll bet there’s a good chance there’ll be a book deal, and maybe even a movie.

The stuff dreams are made of, right? So here’s a question. If your dream comes true tomorrow, are you ready to make the most of it?


Switching topics, Winter Peck, an aspiring Christian romantic suspense author, is holding a Valentine’s book giveaway on her blog. Among the prizes are four Harlequin American Romances:

The Good Mother by Shelley Galloway
Marriage on Her Mind by Cindi Myers
Temporarily Texan by Victoria Chancellor
The Man for Maggie by Lee McKenzie
For a chance to win, drop by her blog and post a comment. Then check back on February 14 when she announces the winners!

Happy reading, and keep on dreaming!

Lee’s blog
Lee’s website

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reality TV Isn't All Fluff and Nonsense

Okay, I admit to being a fan of reality television. SOME reality television. I don't watch every show that comes down the pike. But startling in January, I'm glued to the TV on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as the latest batch of American Idol contestants vie for the title. I've also been known to watch America's Next Top Model (I blame my teenaged daughter for this one), Project Runway, and So You Think You Can Dance.

A new VH1 reality show caught my eye recently: Confessions of a Teen Idol. I admit to watching the first episode of this show because back in the day, I was crushing hard on a couple of these guys and was interested to see how they turned out. The show isn't at all what I expected and has, frankly, surprised me with its intelligence and emotional depth. I find myself relating to these "has-beens" who are trying to figure out if they have what it takes to make a comeback and if they're really ready to make the sacrifices required of them for that all elusive fame. Why do I relate? Because their journey isn't unlike that of a writer seeking publication.

As I said, these guys have to make sacrifices to achieve their dream, some of the sacrifices are big ones. Name me one writer, published or not, who hasn't given up something important – like money, time, and family obligations – to write or attend a conference or enter a contest or take a class. What's the old saying? Nothing worthwhile is easy.

These guys are also putting themself out there each week, opening themselves up to frequently painful criticisms and critiques. They know if they are going to make it in the industry, they will have to develop, or in their cases, re-develop, thick skins. Don't we writers do that as well? We enter contests and receive harsh comments from judges. We get rejection letters by the barrel. We endure cutting and cruel reviews or posts on blogsites, trashing our books. It hurts. But we do for the glory of being published.

This past week, the seven guys were sent out on an audition for a hair product commercial. Three of them refused the opportunity, citing that commercials were basically beneath them. The other four did audition, realizing that at this stage in their careers , they weren't in any position to be choosy about what roles they took. Afterwards, one of them was awarded the part. He was ecstatic, and I was ecstatic for him. From small successes we can build bigger ones. I have basically conducted my entire writing career using this stepping stone method. It's served me well so far, and I hope it will eventually lead me to the top of the hill.

The four guys who auditioned didn't let their egos get in the way of their ambitions, and I predict they will each make some sort of comeback. I also believe writers have to do the same to be successful. We have to think we're good enough, or we have the courage needed to mail off that first submission. But we also can't afford to be prima donas. At least, not in the early stages of our careers or, like these guys, when we're on the downside of our careers.

Yeah, it's true. Another reason I like watching the show is because these guys still look good for their ages. Hotness isn't restricted to youth (grin!).

Go reality television!!

Cathy Mc

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm a Spider Addict

They say the first thing you have to do to get well is admit your addiction. Okay, here goes. I’m addicted to Spider Solitaire. The difficult version, that is, the one played with all four suits. I’ve won over 378 games, and have a high score of 1110. Of course, these stats are probably higher—I reset them the last time I hit 500 games. I can beat the easy level in 95 moves, my best being 90.

Spider Solitaire comes free with Windows XP, but I had it even before that. My daughters like to play, but they cannot stand how I can win and they can’t. My ex husband couldn’t win either, but I’m a guru.

Spider has taken over everything. I used to play Free Cell and was good, but once I found Spider Solitaire, Free Cell was a goner. It didn’t have the challenges or the excitement. Minesweeper is also fun, and my best time on the easy level is 14 seconds. But Minesweeper gets boring, not to mention noisy when I blow up.

I think that my ability to play Spider Solitaire goes back to playing games of Double Solitaire with my stepsister. I’m not sure exactly how you play anymore, but you take two decks of cards and the goal is to clear suits in the most moves or less. It’s laid out with four card piles in two rows each, and you have so many cards, then you try to make holes to move things around, which is what you do in Spider Solitaire. In the doubles version, you can challenge and take over if you can make the play in fewer moves. Judy and I were brutal, not giving each other an inch. Along with puzzles (those all white seals or black cats were our favorites), we could keep ourselves occupied in the early eighties, back before MTV was a household staple (and when it played music videos).

I play hearts on the computer too, and my kids are good at that game and enjoy renaming the players. I’ve never mastered bridge, but I played spades in college and was a wicked partner. I didn’t lose much. Then came video games, and the challenge moved to the small screen. I loved Zelda on the first Nintendo, and after mastering being Link, could win in one life, without ever dying. Remember, back then “save game” was rare. I still hate the Teenage Ninja Turtles game for not thinking of that rather nice feature. If you lost at the very end, it was start all the way over from level one.

Now my kids play a Zelda version I don’t recognize on the Wii, and I play card games while I’m checking email or pretending I’m going to write the book I have due. I figure it’s my vice, and everyone needs at least one, and I rationalize that it’s better than eating potato chips. Still, I really should find something else to do that makes better use of my time. I probably could have a lot more books written if I wrote instead of moved cards around. But it’s all mental, and rather entertaining.

So what about you? Any vices? Any games you can’t live without?

Monday, January 19, 2009

A small daily change… A huge payoff

Sometime back (years, maybe) Oprah Winfrey mentioned using a gratitude journal. Every night she jots down something she’s grateful for. I always liked the idea, but never tried it. Until recently.

I started January 1. Each morning, I play soothing music. (Right now, the music is from Within, a CD composed and played by David Michael, a Celtic harpist.) I sit quietly for a minimum of ten minutes (I’m hyper; for me ten minutes is a lot!). I decide what I want to create for myself that day. I also read through inspirational quotes and think about them. I finish by jotting down three things for which I am grateful.

So far, the experience is good. Actually, better than good. The mental focus I gain from doing these things begins the day in a powerful way. I am focused and active instead of hazy and reactive, and ready to conquer any obstacles that crop up. A huge payoff for ten short minutes. Whenever I’m tempted to skip the exercise (hey, I’m human), I remember what I gain from it.

What about you? Do you pray, meditate or otherwise focus your life on a daily basis?

Eager to hear from you and grateful for each person reading this,