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6527212 January 06, 2014

What Erich Fromm Would Think of Please Love Me?

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” ― Erich Fromm

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6527212 September 14, 2013

Chick Lit vs. Wit Lit: The Road to Literary Revolution

Now that I'm a woman who can bring home some sort of bacon, I want what I've decided to call, Wit Lit.

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6527212 May 01, 2012

Irving and Teledildonics: Michael Olson

"Humanity has this indomitable urge to surround ourselves in elaborate fantasy worlds." 

On the day I finished reading a review copy of John Irving's new novel, In One Person (launching on May 8th), I received guest blog content from author, Michael Olson. Olson's debut novel, Strange Flesh, is about sex and gamesPublishers Weekly describes Strange Flesh as a "head-spinning thriller" that "takes us down a rabbit hole of kinky cybersex and multilevel mystery."  It's a "complex, cutting edge debut."  Irving's book, on the other hand, chronicles the life of a bisexual man.

In his latest novel, Irving tackles the various evolving sexual attitudes we've all either observed, participated in, or endured from the 1960s through today. On par with his previous novels, Irving provides brilliant food for thought on the diverse sexual appetites that exist, regardless of who may or may not be comfortable with them. He reminds us, as others have before him, that there is a specific kind of unnecessary madness involved in trying to deny the truth about who we are as individuals. It's a losing battle and a fruitless crusade.  

Olson's novel brings up another side of sexuality that sits on the border of what many folks consider "normal," even in 2012.  It involves teledildonics, something I had to look up.  Per Dictionary.com, teledildonics is:

Sex in a computer simulated virtual reality, especially computer-mediated sexual interaction between the virtual reality presences of two humans.  

I'm thinking it's akin to making Ken and Barbie get it on in the Barbie Country Camper ... times a million.   

According to the dictionary, teledildonics is not yet possible except in the rather limited form of erotic conversation.  Apparently, the term is "widely recognized in the virtual reality community as a ha ha only serious projection of things to come."  Olson, a Harvard graduate who worked in investment banking and software engineering before taking a master's degree from NYU's Interactive Technology Program, knows a thing or two about it .... from the technical perspective.  When I became familiar with Olson's novel and read about the topic, it struck me as highly creative and different, the buzz words that drive Aberration Nation.  

In response to the question of why bisexuals are rarely represented in literature, Irving said, "I just know that sexual outsiders have always appealed to me: writers are outsiders--at least we're supposed to be detached.  Well, I find sexual outsiders especially engaging. There is the gay brother in The Hotel New Hampshire; there are the gay twins (separated at birth) in A Son of the Circus; there are transsexual characters in The World According to Garp, and in A Son of the Circus, and now again (this time more developed as characters) in In One Person. I like these people; they attract me, and I fear for their safety--I worry about who might hate them and wish them harm." 

Both Irving's In One Person and Olson's Strange Flesh provoke thought, and effortlessly pry open the mind to new levels of consciousness. 

In honor of Irving, one of my absolute favorite authors, I'm pleased to welcome Olson to talk to us a bit about the cultural response to teledildonics, which surely represents a new level of disgusting in the minds of those who would condemn Irving's beloved characters.

Here's what Olson had to say:

“Wait… you don’t seriously think people are actually going to do that?

“Well, actually, they already are. It’s a niche, but it’s growing.”

“But that’s… that’s disgusting.”

Since the publication of my novel Strange Flesh, I’ve been having such conversations a lot. The book is a pretty sanguinary thriller featuring a certain quotient of outlandish violence and a fair amount of material related to the Marquis de Sade. But the element that some readers find far more disturbing is the technology around which much of the action revolves: virtual sex, otherwise known as teledildonics.

The erotic potential of virtual reality has been apparent since its very inception. Soon, using a head mounted display and some means of body tracking, denizens of online worlds such as Second Life will be able to immerse themselves far more fully than they currently can with a traditional desktop computer. In such places one can easily find partners interested in all kinds of salacious exploration. Indeed there are whole worlds explicitly dedicated to adult activity. Adding into the mix special mechanisms designed to simulate the human anatomy could help to render a compelling sensual experience. Initially not much like the real thing, but our tools are always subject to refinement.

I come from a technical milieu where attitudes to teledildonics range from, “When can we have it? Seriously, when? This was promised to us,” to “But will it make iPhone jealous?” In fact, we already see a small industry developing to serve the nascent market for artificial sex. That said, the state of the art remains rather exotic, and I should have better foreseen that the idea seems a bit outré to many.

And yet, I can’t help but think there’s a failure of imagination behind that scandalized “disgusting.”
Granted, at first blush, the notion of having sex with an appliance might seem off-putting. Though of course, we’ve employed various inanimate objects in sexual intercourse from time immemorial. But something about an articulated mechanism seems altogether stranger than the basically inert form of a vibrator. A robot’s position on the continuum between object and being makes them feel uncanny.

But let’s be sure not to confuse the tool with the medium. Precious few people putting household items to alternative uses are in any way sexually attracted to socks or produce. The romance of the moment occurs in the realm of fantasy. We close our eyes and immerse ourselves in a world of our imagination. To say that using a device for sex is disgusting is like saying that minutely inspecting tiny ink markings on a bound sheaf of paper is intrinsically tedious.

The object is just an interface. The real action happens in our minds.

True, teledildonics does tend to bring some of this knee-jerk opprobrium onto itself. One can find plenty of videos and sites online where the robot really is the sexual object. Certain device bondage sites make use of an eye-opening array of automata to service their particular fetish. One to which many observers simply cannot relate. But there’s nothing inherent in the technology that condemns it to be used in that way.
The holy grail of teledildonics is not to create an erotic impulse in people toward machines. It’s for the machines to serve as a means of connecting two humans. The goal of the medium will be for the mechanism, the tool, to disappear as much as possible. When watching a film, we don’t sit and gaze at the projector reels turning.

I propose we try to reconceive sex interfaces as a means to enable a novel medium of sensual communication. Like a camera and projector. Just a new kind of brush with which we’ll be able to paint our fantasies. In doing so, I think we’ll transform them from strange and alien machines to anodyne gadgets that allow us to form a richer kind of connection online. Hasn’t our frigid cyberspace been too long without a sense of touch?

Humanity has this indomitable urge to surround ourselves in elaborate fantasy worlds. To exercise our imaginations. We tell stories. We make images. And we voraciously consume them as though they’re essential to life. The weird folds of our brains hate the harshness of unadorned reality, and we’ll take just about any pretext to embellish it, reform it, or even leave it altogether. We are easily seduced: that page of minutely configured ink can make us weep inconsolably at some ephemeral tragedy. That whirl of sequential images through light can yank our hearts into our throats.

Anytime someone comes up with a new way for us to exercise our overactive imaginations, a new way for storytellers to weave their worlds, it spreads like wildfire. So as we imagine devices that indulge what is perhaps humankind’s strongest, most fundamental drive, does that really sound so marginal and bizarre, even disgusting?

To me it sounds inevitable. No medium has ever remained chaste. And I for one will be eager to see what we paint with this new brush.


I read another great book recently, The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was about a world with no choices, no room for imaginative brushes, no experimentation, no real emotion, and no chance for making a right or wrong decision. No differences. No agony. No pain. No love. Everyone was safe.

It turned out to be a nightmare. 

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6527212 August 13, 2011

The Critic who Thought a Duck was a Cow

Story of the Day: Animal announces that she's a duck. She walks, quacks, and swims around like a duck. Critic watches her closely and writes, "She said she was a cow but she's actually a duck. Stupid thing ... she doesn't even know she's a duck. She's a terrible cow. I suppose she put up a good fight trying to be a cow but she failed." Perplexed, the Duck says, "What the duck? I'm a ducking duck, you duck! I ducking said I was a duck. What the duck is your problem?" Then the duck waddles off and writes a blog post ....

- Facebook Status, 12 Aug 2011

I had my first run in with a critic yesterday ... and I freaked.  After a couple of hours and many tears, I calmed down and evaluated what the critic actually said.  I then realized that much of it makes little sense. While I respect the time taken to read my novel, CENTERPIECES, and write the review as well as her honesty, I feel compelled to respond to a few of her comments and questions. 

A little background:

Despite not being published by a major house, or having a trust fund, other famous creditials, or MFA, I've have been able to obtain quite a few reviews for my novels, ABERRATIONS and CENTERPIECES.  I've also received many comments about Aberration Nation from highly creative folks including award winning and bestelling authors Joshilyn Jackson, Lisa See, Darin Strauss, Anneli Rufus, Antwone Fisher, Margaret Weis, Marya Hornbacher, Terri Cheney, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Melissa Walker, and Susan Cheever.  Of all these reviews and comments, only one or two have included anything that could be construed as negative. 

Being that I'm a sensitive, borderline drama queen, those couple of negative comments were devastating, but I got over it.  Those minor ego setbacks luckily occurred after years of constant rejection from agents and publishers.  Those are the folks I cut my teeth on.  They thickened my skin and taught me how to barrel through at times when it seemed the world was laughing at my creative efforts.   

So why did I freak yesterday?  Well, the review was not only written in a negative tone, it stemmed from an inaccurate assumption about my novel, CENTERPIECES.  I won't bore you with a boohoo story about how horrific it was to read.  Instead, I'd like to explain a few things to the critic. 

Despite the pain involved, I'm always willing to hear constructive feedback, assess it, and then apply what I feel is useful to my work moving forward.  I have operated that way for years, and have seen my work grow as a result.  I respect that approach, and believe it's critical for the creative who wants to continuously improve and evolve. 

With that said, in this case I feel compelled to respond:


"The author Penelope Przekop's second novel, CENTERPIECES, is a novel that bravely tries to be a historical fiction about Van Gogh, art and the creative drive, but instead turns out to the a twisted narrative that describes a stifling world of corporate ladder climbing."


According to the CENTERPIECES press release, "Penelope Przekop takes readers on a thought-provoking journey as corporate executives follow their creative urges in 'Centerpieces.'"

CENTERPIECES is not marketed as historical fiction.  The novel is categorized on Amazon as Fiction / Alternative History.  This is defined as:

Alternate history or alternative history is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world.

My intent was not to write a historical novel.  The intent was to write fiction based on the interesting facts of Van Gogh's death, and what transpired afterwards.  My idea was to weave those facts with his creative temperament and my own observations about corporate life and creativity. 


"Przekop herself, a 'global quality director,' for the pharmaceutical industry--a title as vague and important-sounding as many of the details in her book - is a business woman who 'stepped back' from her career to become a writer and painter." 


My title was Director, Global Quality Management, with the global Johnson & Johnson pharmacovigilance organization.  This is a common type of title within not only the pharmaceutical industry but also in many other service and manufacturing industries.  Further, I don't believe the details of my novel are generally vague or important sounding (whatever that means).  Those details that are vague were made to be so purposefully.

Of note, my current title is Senior Director, Global Quality Assurance & Training.  Maybe she will like that one better. 


"Chapters set in the latter part of the 19th century, however, in Van Gogh's actual time period (of which there are thankfully very few) are, however, written in an awkward style and are filled with odd thematic sentiments."


I spent months reading all available literature about Vincent and Theo van Gogh, including the lengthy letters they wrote to one another over many years.  The writing style and thematic sentiments in the chapters set in the late 19th century were closely based on the style of written communication that Vincent and Theo used in their own personal writings to one another.  This was fully my intention so while the comment is quite negative, I am happy to know that I succeeded in mimicking their awkward, overtly sentimental communication style.


"CENTERPIECES as speculation historical fiction feels misleading, as readers will not learn about the artist, his life or work, from reading it."


Again, the primary intention of the novel, clearly communication in the Press Release and jacket description, was not to teach readers about the life or work of Van Gogh.  I'm not sure how the critic has misunderstood the entire intent of the novel.  She states that the novel's few informative facts are listed chronologically in an afterward.  The entire novel takes place after Van Gogh's actual death so the facts listed in the back of the book are those that occurred after his death.  The novel is fiction woven around those facts.  Again, alternative history ....


"Ironically, both men seem as miserable in their extended lives as they were in their real ones." (meant negatively)


This is like saying, "Ironically, she seemed as miserable in her later years as she was in her younger years."  I don't see any irony in this.  Long term happiness is never guaranteed.  We all make choices based on the facts and situations that are presented to us.  Of course, we should look to future outcomes as part of our decision making.  Often we believe we are making the best choice at the time, only to learn later that we didn't realize all of the implications.


"Following the revelation that Ellis and Tom are Vincent and Theo, come a series of implausible and confusing events that lead us to believe that the brothers are vampires, or are at the very least vampire-like.  This assumption is based on vague but foreboding dialogue about 'living in the light,' not wanting to 'return to the darkness,' a drug called 'teperaquin' that they supposedly need to stay alive and too much biting and killing to go unnoticed - though it does go unexplained."


The vagueness around their being vampires was intentional as my goal was not to write a "vampire" novel.  Of course being a vampire is implausible.  It's fiction.  Teperaquin is a drug that enables them to be in the light, not to stay alive.  There is very little biting and killing in the novel, and the details around how those were covered up was relevant to the novel.


"Przekop doesn't seem to realize she has on her hands an interesting novel about the mentalities, professions, and industries that unnecessarily stifle creativity, and created as a distraction too many artificial moments of interest."


I do realize what I created.  Apparently, the critic didn't realize what she was reading.  As for "artificial moments of interest" that is the critic's opinion.  From my perspective, every detail and scene in the novel served a specific purpose, althought every reader may not "catch" every detailed, complex connection upon first reading.


"Is Mimi a stripper simply so Przekop could write a juicy chapter describing Mimi's sexuality?"


No.  The novel includes one scene about Mimi's stripping.  Mimi's being a stripper is important for her characterization and the plot.  It is how she knows Ellis and Tom, and why she does not tell Holly that she knows them.  This night job is part of her characterization, which ties into her telling everyone that she's a vampire.  All of this is necessary to the plot with regard to what happens at the end of the novel.


"Why does Holly, who longs for emotion, color and life, turn away from Van Gogh when he reaches out to her with the truth about his unnatural life?"


Her disbelief and assumption that he is mentally ill is realistic.  I deeply long for emotion, color and life, but if someone told me they were Vincent van Gogh, I wouldn't jump for joy and accept it with no questions or hesitation.  If I were already involved in a romantic relationship with that person, their belief that they are Vincent van Gogh would be both disturbing and conflicting.


"Why would Vincent, who ended his own life, wish to be immortally unhappy?"


See my response above regarding the choices we make in life.  Why would a woman marry a man who then made her unhappy for the rest of her life?  On the wedding day, I'm sure she though all her dreams would finally come true.  Despite our best intentions with choice making, there are often negative outcomes that we didn't foresee.


"Why would he become immortal only to allow himself, for 200 years, to be ordered never to paint again by his brother?"


The initial decision that he would not paint was part of the plan that he, Theo and Johanna created together.  The evolution of that decision is based on many factors that are clearly explained in the novel.  Theo's power over Vincent in the novel is based on the dynamic that evolves due to Vincent being responsible for making Theo a vampire (without his consent) and thus making him lose the woman he loves.  I believe that the dynamic is based on realistic physcological and emotional relationship factors that are true to life, and follow the actual personalities and dispositions of Vincent and Theo van Gogh (based on my extensive research).


"Why would Vincent keep alive the brother who stifled him with his faith, devotion and lack of understanding?"


If the critic is referring to Vincent making Theo a vampire, her assessment about their relationship is inaccurate.  Theo was Vincent's primary support throughout his life, and his closest friend and relative, despite any relationship difficulties they may have had. 

On another level, no matter how much a sibling might drive you nuts, would you let them die if you had the chance to save them?  Further, if you were both healthy, would you just kill them off because they were causing you trouble? I think not. Should we all just kill our relatives and spouses during tough times? 

In conclusion, it appears that this critic has misunderstood CENTERPIECES on multiple levels.  Perhaps that is my fault as a writer, and perhaps it's unprofessional to respond to the review.  However, based on the reaction of my other reader, I'm confident that the book, press release, and actual novel are not as misleading as she found them to be. 

And I am not as dumb as she has assumed. 

I admit that I'm highly emotional, sensitive, impulsive, and sometimes immature. However, I have diligently worked for years on my craft, and am proud of my accomplishments. I stand by my novel, CENTERPIECES, and believe I've succeeded in accomplishing my goals with the project.

If you're interested in reading the novel to decide for yourself, I'm posting the entire book here on Aberration Nation over the next few weeks.  Links to the available chapters can be found on the sidebar.  I'm not promoting the book as much as I could due to my current focus on art, but I do hope that a few folks will read and enjoy it. 

One critic wasn't crazy about my novel.  So what?


You can read her review here.

To read the CENTERPIECES press release and back cover copy, go here.

To start reading CENTERPIECES on line, go here.

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6527212 May 11, 2011

Imperfect Endings: Zoe Fitzgerald Carter

Imperfect Endings: A Daughter's Tale of Life and Death"Just because you are driven to write and passionate about your craft, doesn’t mean you don’t want to be a critical and commercial success."

What is your writing story (in a nutshell)?

I started out as a journalist, writing for newspapers in Cambridge, MA, right out of college. I then moved to New York City in my mid-twenties to go to Columbia Journalism School and began writing for various national magazines. Imperfect Endings is my first published book. I also have an unpublished mystery and am currently working on a novel. I still write for magazines and newspapers.

Was there someone in particular who inspired you to love books and/or take an interest in writing?

I like to say that I come from a long line of failed writers, although that is not entirely fair. My maternal grandfather was a journalist and novelis,t and my grandmother was an aspiring playwright. My mother was also a writer, although she never published. She did, however, spend hours every day holed up in her study writing. She really modeled for me what it meant to live a “writer’s life.” She used to help me write my school papers when I was growing up and was hugely supportive of my creative writing. Another gift from both parents was their decision to never own a television. Reading was always my escape and entertainment.

Where do most of your creative ideas come from?

This may sound strange, but my best creative ideas almost always happen when I am in the shower or out on my bike. I think these are the places where I can stop “thinking” and just let my mind drift. I’ll be daydreaming and suddenly have a really great idea for a new project or have some huge insight into something I am writing. In fact, sometimes the ideas come so fast and furious when I am out on my bike that I have to either pull over and write them down or – if I don’t have a pen and paper – memorize them so I don’t forget. Then as soon as I get home, I write them down.

As to where these ideas come from, I think they emerge from the psychic soup that exits on the right side of my brain somewhere. This is the place where experience, memory and emotion all intersect and where the raw materials of creativity are manufactured.

With regard to your new memoir, Imperfect Endings, was there an "ah-ha" moment you can tell us about? When did you realize that you wanted or needed to write about your mother's wish to die?

To be honest, I kind of backed blindly into my ah-ha moment. I initially had an idea for an autobiographical novel that involved three sisters, as I was interested in exploring my experience growing up as the youngest of three girls with two very intense older sisters who fought over my soul from the moment I was born. I thought it would be interesting to have my three “characters” face a crisis in their adult lives that would stir up all the old childhood animosities and alliances.

My mother had recently taken her own life after struggling with Parkinson’s for many years and there had been a great deal of strife between the three of us, so I made this event my “crisis.” I wrote about 50 pages of the novel and my agent at the time suggested I make it a memoir and write about what really happened. After some initial hesitation, I switched to nonfiction and almost immediately, the voice, tone and structure of the book fell into place.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both? How so?

For me, part of being a creative person involves spending a lot of time alone. It allows me to enter into that dreamy, freeform state of mind that fuels my writing. This way of working does not really jibe with the current model of productivity in our culture, which is very results-oriented. And there are times, especially when I doubt that whatever I am working on will ever see the light of the day, that I start to wish I had an actual job where it was someone else’s responsibility to tell me what to do all day.

I have also struggled over the years with the competing demands of being a mother and a writer. Especially when my kids were small, it was sometimes hard to justify taking time away from them in order to write. But I had the memory of my mother doing this to bolster me, and my intuitive sense that it would be better for all of us in the end if I made time for my creative life.

Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

There have been times when my chronic under-earning has been a source of tension in my marriage. The truth is, most artists don’t make much money unless they are in that elite group who -- through exceptional talent, perseverance, or luck -- hit the financial jackpot. But having finally published a book and done pretty well with it, the tension has eased and my husband is more proud of my book than anyone else!

Overall he has been incredibly supportive of my life as a writer, both financially and emotionally. As for the other people in my life, most or them are under-earning creative people as well and we all “get” each other perfectly, even when we work in different mediums.

Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your writing goals? If so, can you tell us about it, and also share any thoughts you may have on the role the discipline and organization play in reaching creative goals?

I still find myself setting new goals in terms of how I work. Three hours of writing every day, for example. Or, three pages a day. Or doing my writing first thing in the morning. But then I always end up abandoning these protocols.  Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of writing in the evenings when my daughter is doing her homework and my husband is catching up on emails. And I’ve come to realize that I am actually more of an intermittent marathoner than an everyday kind of steady as she goes person and I have come to accept this process, as chaotic as it can sometimes feel. I always feel incredibly envious and inadequate when I read about writer’s intensely disciplined lives. That is not me.

How has writing Imperfect Endings and dealing with the issues described in the memoir changed you and your ideas about life and death?

I think the actual experience of talking about and planning my mother’s death with her – and being there when she took her own life -- changed my ideas about life and death. For example, I no longer fear dying the way I once did. I have been through it with my both my parents in such an intimate way and there is a kind of beauty and logic to death. While we all want as much time as we can get, especially if we are healthy and enjoying our lives, the actual physical process of dying does not frighten me.
But I do think that writing the book allowed me to understand the events I describe in a new and deeper way. I really struggled with what it meant to be a “good daughter.” How should you respond when your parent says they want to kill themselves? Talk them out of it -- or help them do it? Writing the book allowed me to wrestle with that question and see where I landed and I hope that readers will want to take that journey with me.

I often think about the difference between writers who seem to attack it from a business perspective (i.e., James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, etc.), versus those who seem to be simply driven from a deep need to write regardless of business concerns (i.e., J.D. Salinger, Pat Conroy, etc.). How would you describe the differences between these types of writers? Where do you fit in?

I think all writers, including Salinger and Conroy care how their books are received. In fact, I think Salinger was so crushed by the negative reviews of Catcher in the Rye, it’s one of the reasons he became a hermit and stopped publishing! I think we need to be careful not to romanticize the “pure” writers who don’t care about publishing, money and success. Just because you are driven to write and passionate about your craft, doesn’t mean you don’t want to be a critical and commercial success.

That said, I agree that there are very successful commercial writers like Clark and Patterson who write to a certain formula because it sells and these writers tend to be less literary. But these writers succeed because there are a lot of readers out there who like what they write – readers who might not read otherwise – and so power to them.

I see myself as someone who writes because it is the only thing I have found to do, besides play music, that really makes me happy but yes – absolutely -- I want to be successful at it!

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

Enjoy all the good moments along the way. They are the best life has to offer. Don’t postpone happiness as you wait for a big payoff--the raise, the house, the car, the proposal, the perfect weight, the perfect dress--because even if it happens, it will turn out to be just be another good moment along the way. Embrace all of life’s small pleasures and be open to the humor and beauty in the daily parade.
If I had to express my philosophy on how to get the most out of one’s life, this would be it.

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6527212 July 08, 2010

A Jewel: The Pearl New York Lounge

" ...everyone who walks through our door is treated like a VIP."

If I can make it there,
I'll make it anywhere,
It's up to you,
New York, New York. 

When you grow up in a place some people refer to as the "The Armpit of America," you truly long for New York. Okay ... my deep South hometown ain't so bad.  The hot, muggy place has come up quite a bit in the world since I hung my hat there.  But nothing can compare to pull of New York City, especially for a smart, creative youngster like me whose sophisticated interior designer mom talked it up quite a bit while we were munching on grits and collard greens. She had once been on track to attend the prestigious New York Parsons School of Design but instead chose a different path ... or it chose her.

I grew up believing that creative dreams came true in the Big Apple. Novels are published, plays are produced, and movies are made. I imagined famous, talented folks walking the streets, rubbing shoulders with the sort of people who can make you famous ... or at least recognize talent and individuality. Like the trappings of the Christmas season, it could all be a bunch of hype but it was fun to believe.    

So every time I go to New York I can't help but feel that I'm having a grand adventure.  I realize that, to some extent, this seals my label of one who just fell off the turnip truck.  But who cares?  Who doesn't enjoy feeling like a kid on Christmas morning?  As adults, I believe we should cherish anything that evokes the feeling of candy canes and magical new toys.

Imagine my excitement at being invited to the opening of a brand new night spot in New York City!  In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that such an invitation would land in my lap.  I couldn't miss it. Since I had other business in New York, I planned a day in the city that would culminate with my visit to The Pearl New York Lounge.

And what at pearl it wasAs I walked into the long, narrow lounge, I immediately noticed that it was like walking into a jewel. Like the shimmering shallow grooves that hug a pearl, the pristine white seating twisted in eye catching loops that somehow provided perfectly engineered space to sit and have a drink, chat with friends, or check out the muscle-bound bartender in the corner.

Don't conjure up images of The Little Mermaid.  It wasn't like that. It was more like walking into the home of your most sophisticated yet down to earth neighbor who also happens to be your best friend.  People are smiling like family and you wonder how the hell she keeps the place so spotless as she hands you your favorite drink. You don't know all the others she's invited but they look quite approachable.  No matter what they're wearing or what "type" they are, they magically fit it because they're her friends. She's the-real-deal cool who knows it doesn't matter how a person appears on the outside, they're all human and that's fabulous. And because of her conviction, they're all suddenly okay, too.   

Do you see that one, lone person sitting in the corner?  She's okay, too, but it won't be long before someone starts chatting with her, just dying to find out who she and is and what's in her head.  Oh, that was me chatting away with her after my second martini ... Well, anyway, The New York Pearl Lounge met my expectations of adventure, open-mindedness, and a fantastic time in New York.  I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Jeff and BK, who were quite interested to hear about and be part of Aberration Nation.

They're here today to share with us a little bit more about the latest addition to the exciting Chelsea district in New York City, a place where dreams come true ... at least for dreamers like me who tumble off turnip trucks on the way to growing up. 

What inspired you to create and open the The New York Pearl Lounge?

Our inspiration was the opportunity itself, providing us with a chance to open new exciting business … and what better place than the most exciting city in the world?

How does the Pearl differ from similar New York establishments?

We just do things in our own specific way and are happy watching our business grow. Each business has its own identity. We wanted to create an environment that would cater to the energy and soul of New York City, a place where culture could come together and kick back or explode, depending on the individual’s mood and desire.

I'm sure that you will welcome anyone but is there a specific type of individual who may be drawn to the Pearl based on your vision and business plan?

We originally wanted to open a new spot where any type of individual can discover something that he/she finds worth experiencing--both in those around them and within themselves.

Aberration Nation has a strong underlying theme of overcoming and learning from the tough knocks life throws our way. Did you have any challenges as you worked towards opening the Pearl, and if so, how did you deal with these and what did you learn?

We did face some considerable challenges while opening our business, but we also knew starting out that it would take a lot to overcome all the difficulties. Being prepared help us deal with some of the major obstacles.

If you think about it, creating an establishment that would engage the most interesting clientele in the world is no small feat to overcome. Through hard work and imagination we have accomplished our goal. We also have the advantage of working with an incredible staff.

The decor is unique and creative. Can you share with us the concept behind the design? How does it reflect your vision for the Pearl?

The design reflects our way of saying that something new and different in Chelsea can be a great thing. The key was finding a balance between style and comfort, the future, and in some ways drawing from the eloquence of the past. We had a sense of what we wanted to accomplish. After that it was just a matter of making sure that vision was turned into a reality.

When I was at the Pearl, it gave me a feel of being at a friend's home, hanging out with interesting people and having a drink. While highly sophisticated, it seemed quite cozy and comfortable. Was this your intention?

Yes, we had this idea of making our lounge cozy but also an exotic type of place.

How are you reaching out to the creative community to attract patrons who will appreciate your vision for the Pearl?

We welcome anyone who has some good practical ideas and wants to collaborate with us in making Pearl Lounge an even better place to hang out.

I've noticed that there are not too many restaurants or clubs in Chelsea. Why do think that is, and do you envision the Pearl filling a gap in that regard?

There is not any specific gap. We are simply adding one more interesting place to go to besides the already existing ones.

On a lighter note, do you always intend to have muscular bartenders? I suspect that may attract a few folks.

We did not specifically intend on having muscular bartenders and that is why we several bartenders. We chose our staff based on their professional skills. And personality was a priority! Our business is all about the customer having a great time to the point where they come back and of course bring their friends and business associates.

I've noticed that there seem to be many private events at the Pearl since opening. What types of events have been held, and is the Pearl also open to the general public?

The Pearl Lounge was always intended for service to the general public and we will continue that vision. Actually the general public is our greatest priority! Don't get me wrong, we love doing private events. And the people involved in these events have been very, very happy. But you grow a business one customer at a time. And everyone who walks through our door is treated like a VIP. But my suggestion would be this: if you’re in the neighborhood shopping or hitting the galleries drop in. I promise you will have a wonderful time.

I loved my night at the Pearl! When can I come back?

Come back tomorrow! We'll have your martini ready ...

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6527212 February 19, 2010

A Crazy Heart: Why was Bad Bad?

" ... who is real country?"

I haven't been to see a movie by myself in many years, but today I slipped into the 12:25 all alone. I wanted to see Crazy Heart with the person I am when I'm by myself. I suspected the movie would pull that person out, and when she fully emerges, I usually feel very alone anyway.

It's not a bad thing. It just is.

So me and myself bought our ticket, got the popcorn, and found a seat. You must have heard by now that Jeff Bridges is on the short list to win best actor for this gig. After seeing Crazy Heart, my bet is that he'll win. It's not the kind of movie that everyone will fall in love with, but it was the kind of performance that held up a mirror ... at least for me.

As I watched, I wondered (in a deep way) why Bad Blake was bad and what this was meant to tell the folks looking into the Jeff Bridges mirror. How did he get that way? Why did he have to be that way? The truth is, he wasn't bad. He was human, and he just happened to be highly creative--a deeply sensitive soul with strong convictions that were most likely mismatched with many of the particulars that make up the typical life.

Many of us put a lot of effort into numbing ourselves. Bad's elixir was alcohol. It's tough to feel so much, to have so much to express. And in times when there's no outlet, it can become unbearable. Sometimes when feeling desperate or overwhelmed, there's an intense urge to take an action, regardless of circumstances. The numbing helps with that. Sure, lots of folks choose alcohol or other drugs. But there are many more surprising devices that also work: jobs, religion, family. Just about anything you can completely bury your self under can do the trick.

At the start of the movie, Bad Blake was busy wallowing in some creative disappointments he'd had. Sure, he was still out there doing his thing but he wasn't all there. Rather than creating new work, he was replaying the old.

Then he met someone.

Isn't that how it always happens? Certainly in movies it is. I thought hard about how this gritty lonely, disappointed musician and a soft, sensitive single-mom-writer could fall in love so quickly. Well ... it was a movie, after all. Duh!

But wait, that happens in real life, too. At least it does to people like me. There are all kinds of real love, and they're all good. They're all right. But sometimes we stumble upon someone who steps out of the blue and gives us a profound SNAP! Often these snap-out-of-it-connections are extremely intense, and the people involved must eventually part ways for some reason or another. Perhaps these connections are good for us in the moment, orchestrated by unknown forces we've yet to understand. Maybe the intensity needed to make that snap is simply too overwhelming for the long haul.

As the movie continued, I wondered if creative people ("the real deal") must always toss their cookies into toilets and numb away their demons to inevitably create? And how is that fair? I've tossed enough cookies for a lifetime. I don't want to do that anymore. In the end, Bad Blake wasn't tossing anything but a fantastic song. The music came back to him due to his ability to finally let himself feel something again. After that snap, he couldn't go back. It gave him new courage to take a chance that peeking out of that numbass state might just have some positive outcomes if he was willing to accept the bad.

Even in Bad's badness, he held true to a certain mantra. Early in the movie, his new woman friend, a reporter, asked, "In today's world, who is real country?" And I thought to myself, "Who is real art? Who is real writing?" To quote my mentor Bob Hogge, "There is true talent, and there is commercialized talent." So where are the Bad Blakes of our time? Are they lying drunk on dirty couches in small hotel rooms; strolling multiple children around the mall too busy to feel; or sticking their heads so far into Bibles that they don't have to accept responsibility for what they've been gifted, get off their asses, and contribute?

Meanwhile, the machine charges forward, taking those who are willing to pitch tents in dens full of thieves and do whatever is necessary to make a buck or two. (Trust me, I know it's not always an either/or situation, and that many of us walk the line as much as we can to see a tiny slit of success. After all, Bad Blake had an agent, too.)

In the end, each of us, whether creative or not, chooses who we will be to the world whether or not that matches with who we really are. I was happy to see Bad turn better. And the truth is that all cleaned up and shiny, he was still the same gifted person. You don't always have to be bad to be good.

I also went to the hair salon this morning. As my beautician was changing the colors in my hair, I came across a magazine quote by Ellen Degeneres. She said, "Be true to yourself and the rest will follow." Everywhere Bad went, folks deeply respected him. However, he was often too numb to recognize their awe. This made me wonder if I give enough credit to those in my life who support me, who believe in my talents and abilities.

Am I too quick to belittle the respect that's close and all around because I'm too busy believing that the real respect has yet to arrive? Crazy Heart made me consider which is more important.

With all this in mind, I've decided to add Bad Blake (even though he's actually a fictional character) to my list of Aberration Nation honorary members. Jeff Bridges may not be as excited about his Aberration Nation award as he is with the golden ones but something tells me Bad Blake would accept with pride.


Visit Jeff Bridges' web site.

See the sidebar for a full list of honorary members.

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6527212 January 18, 2010

What to Do When Life Sucks? Think or Sink

"The greatest lessons in your life come from your failures."

If you're like me, despite various successes, sometimes you tend to screw things up without even trying. I don't wish to stereotype anyone. However, based on my experience, highly creative individuals can be quite skilled at digging their own graves. This may or may not be an off-shoot of out-of-the-box thinking, intense focus, or a sensitive nature. Who knows? I'm still trying to figure myself out much less the rest of the world.

What I do know is that failure can lead to success. In both small and large ways, I've seen it happen in my own life. Over the years, I've become a firm believer in making lemons out of lemonade. Later this week, we'll hear from renowned artist Esther Barend, but today I want to take a detour and tell you about a new book based on the lemonade premise I hold dear.

Gina Mollicone-Long's new book, Think or Sink: The One Choice that Changes Everything, explores the power within each of us to create our own outcomes based on how we choose to think during times of failure. Of course, this applies to everyone, not just creative individuals. However, Think or Sink holds powerful messages and advice for the creative soul. Creative folks are famous for our keen ability to milk self doubt and serve as our own worst enemies. In a highly competitive world that often lacks support for the arts, we need a boost. Let's face it, we crave words of encouragement that help drive us toward success. The more success we celebrate as individuals, the more the arts in general will flourish over time.

Whether you're an artist, writer, actor, accountant, stay-at-home mom, or just some dude who stumbled upon Aberration Nation for the first time, you're the most powerful contributor to your own fate. You're the one and only captain of the boat you're standing in; there's no way out. No way to jump onto your neighbor's. No way to trade yours in for a new model. When storms hit, the only options are to move forward or sink like a stone. Let's hear what Gina has to share with regard to how we might steer our unique vessels in more positive directions.

You're a motivational speaker, author, self-help guru, and personal development specialist. Was there something in your personal experience that led you down this path?

I have always been motivated by the greatness that I see in others. I have always worked to help people reveal this inherent greatness. I have always stood for everyone being the absolute best that they can be. I started speaking when I was young. In fact, I was the valedictorian for both my elementary and high school graduating classes. Likewise, I have been coaching since I was 14 starting as a gymnastics coach. I loved coaching. At one point, I was a certified coach in gymnastics, soccer, diving, swimming, basketball and volleyball. Eventually, these skills transferred to management experience and working with individuals to craft a life they love, Now, I only work with executives, entrepreneurs and high performers coaching them to achieve amazing results. I’m only interested in getting results with my clients. It doesn’t take us a lot of time because of the techniques that I use and my work is guaranteed.

You're book, Think or Sink: The One Choice that Changes Everything, sounds intriguing, and certainly speaks to the underlying concept of Aberration Nation. Tell us about the book.

Believe it or not, whenever anything happens to us, we always have a choice in determining our response to what happens. It might not always feel like that but we always have the choice. It we don’t make the choice consciously then it will get dictated to us by outside forces like the media, our friends and family, etc. This is only a problem if the response causes us to feel additional stress in our lives. Many people like to blame their circumstances, especially when times are tough. Blaming the circumstances might make you feel good in the short term but it ultimately leaves you powerless because you have given your power over to your circumstances. It is not your circumstances that are to blame but rather it is your response to the circumstances that is the issue.

Successful people and great leaders do one thing differently than most people during times of challenge. They think for themselves and choose powerful responses to events instead of sinking into the prevailing negative default response of their circumstances and the people around them. Think or Sink is not a book about what to think. It is a book about how to think for yourself, perhaps for the first time. There are a lot of books that tell you what to do. Sometimes the advice works and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no sure-fire way to tell. This is a different kind of book. This book is about how life works as a process. This book will show you how it works so you can make good decisions about what is right for you. This is not a book about positive thinking; this is a book about positive responding.

What was your inspiration for writing Think or Sink?

I noticed in my own life that I seemed to be at the mercy of my circumstances a lot. I found myself often wishing that someone or something would change so that I could finally relax. It dawned on me one day that this was a very dis-empowering way to live because I had no control over my own life experience. My first book, The Secret of Successful Failing, explores the paradox that your greatest gifts come out of your biggest challenges. This point of view was such a powerful re-frame for anything in my life that didn’t go my way. As I continued exploring the paradox, I found myself noticing that if I took complete responsibility for my response in any situation that I had a great deal of power and choices in those situations. I began doing research and developed a model for retaining your personal power regardless of the circumstances. It has worked amazing wonders in my life. Since employing the techniques that I write about I have enjoyed numerous results in all contexts of my life such as releasing 50lbs of excess body weight, landing the publisher for Think or Sink, increasing the revenue in my business, and taking my marriage to a completely different level (to name a few).

Everyone hits roadblocks in life; it's inevitable. Why do some people learn from them and move on, while others just get stuck?

It comes down to choice. We choose our responses. Always. We either make these choices consciously and with volition and intention or they get chosen for us unconsciously typically led by the prevailing response of people around us. Most people don’t realize how much power they have in every single situation. No one can ever be in complete control of what happens to them or around them but we can always be in charge of how we respond to any situation. If you are stuck then make a choice to get going. If you hit a roadblock then focus your intention to find a way around and the way will appear. Maintain focus on what you want and never never never give up on yourself. Just keep moving.

In your experience working with others on personal development, what have you seen as the top three characteristics that keep people from moving forward?

Instead of focusing on what holds people back, I am much more interested in what successful people do to maintain momentum and get results. Part of my formal training is in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). At the most basic level, NLP is a study of excellence and how to replicate. Therefore from an NLP perspective, I am concerned with understanding the strategies and behaviors that are common amongst the most successful people in the world in all areas of life.

In my experience, these successful people share the following three attributes:

1. They FOCUS on what they want. They never take their eye off the prize. They give all of their energy to focusing on what they want and none of their energy on what they do NOT want. This idea of focus is a key theme in Think or Sink.

2. They are on the CAUSE side of the equation. In life there is an equation that states a certain cause produces an certain effect. Successful people realize that they are the master of their experience and are the ultimate cause for their results. In life, you either get results or you have reasons. Bear in mind that no results plus a great reason still equals NO RESULTS. Successful people aren’t interested in the reasons why they don’t have what they want. They use their results (or failures) as feedback to ensure that they remain powerful and therefore on track to success.

3. They maintain powerful states of Being. Successful people realize that they are ALWAYS in charge of their response to any situation. They understand that their response dictates their mental, emotional and physiological resources at any given moment. They maintain responsibility to keeping themselves in the most positive and powerful states of Being. They do not allow circumstances and people to knock them over.

Although we have countless years of history to draw from, there still remains such a stigma on failure. However, you've said that one of the most notable qualities shared by great leaders is the ability to learn and benefit from failure and setback. Do you coach individuals in the midst of failure, and if so, what are your key messages to them?

My work centers around helping my clients get exactly what they want. I work with people who have enjoyed a lot of success, people that have failed, and people that haven’t even tried yet. In all cases, the clients MUST be willing to do whatever it takes for their dream. My work is a “do-with” process and not a “do-to” process. It is very powerful. It gets results, real results and it gets them quickly.

My key messages to my clients are the same as in #5 above.

1. Focus on what you want (and only what you want)

2. Remain on the cause side of the equation of the results in your life

3. Maintain a powerful state of Being by maintaining control of your responses to situations, circumstances, events and people.

4. Finally, take massive action towards what you want. Do not let up.

We'd love to hear some examples of success over failure that you've personally witnessed in your work. Are there any you can share with us?

It’s not success over failure. Every life experience is worth having. The greatest lessons in your life come from your failures. In fact, I am often quoted in the media on the topic of self-esteem. I always respond by pointing out that true self-esteem does not come from a “failure-less” environment. Rather, true self-esteem comes when you are face down in the proverbial mud and you DECIDE to get back up. In that moment, you discover new resources and realize that you are made of much more than you thought you were. This is the gift in failure. For example, in my own life, a “failure” early on my corporate career to be passed up for a promotion that I really thought that I deserved caused me to search deep within myself to realize that the corporate world was not where my I belonged. My heart wanted to start my own business, write books, teach seminars, and work with people. If it hadn’t been for that failure in my career, I may never have developed the resources that I needed to be a success today.

What would you say are the three most important steps in turning failure into a positive?

This is easy.

1. Treat all failure as feedback. Use the information that you have in the feedback to go back and make a change INSIDE yourself.

2. Keep moving forward focused on what you want. Never never never quit.

3. Recognize that you are always in control of your response to ANY circumstance and ensure that you are choosing the powerful response to what is happening to you.

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6527212 March 23, 2009

Chick Lit Vs. Wit Lit: The Road to Literary Revolution

Check out Penelope's first guest blogging gig--a book review. Visit the The Bluestocking Guide, the book blog of Brooke Bonett, an attorney and avid reader.

Penelope discusses how the similarities and differences of two popular books, Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess, and Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, reflect a fundamental reader and cultural choice. There is no right or wrong favorite, but if "you are what you read" is true, perhaps it's one that calls for additional thought.

After Wednesday, you can also read the article here on Aberration Nation.

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