From My Bookshelf

During the month of July I read 3 books. I know most of you are reading 3 books a week, but my little heart is just happy that I have managed to stumble back into something I have always enjoyed and yet somehow stopped doing!

The one good thing that came out of COVID is that I’ve managed to rediscover my love for books.

This month I tackled: When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent, Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and The Sea Before Us by Saran Sundin.

When I Lay My Isaac Down was a very thoughtful gift from Naomi Rogers, a dear friend of mine. I had mentioned to her that I heard Carol Kent speak at a writer’s conference I attended on-line and was so moved by Carol’s story. Naomi heard my words and gifted me the book so generously.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/161291442X/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=

This book outlines eight transformational power principles Gene and Carol Kent learned in the process of facing the news that forever changed their lives: their twenty-five-year-old son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with an impeccable military record, shot and killed his wife’s ex-husband.

This book forever changed the way I will think about hope and faith and most of all community.

The book starts with this quote from Eric Liddell:

“Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.”

Carol tells her personal story explaining the loss she and her husband felt. She tells of her melted pride, her destroyed agenda and a heart sacrifice that she never dreamed she would have to make. With each step she reminds us that God is always in the middle of each circumstance whether we recognize Him or not.

Each chapter tells the story of what Carol and her husband learned along this journey and ends with discussion questions that would make this book a very interesting Bible study.

This is a convicting story of hope….not in our lives and personal goals, but in the God who is always working out His plan of love.

I also found it interesting to read the comments that people made to the Kent’s out of ignorance and how unfeeling it would seem to the person going through such loss. I have personally always struggled to say the “right” thing. It was so helpful to see the other perspective. I loved seeing the examples of how friends and family could minister in such creative ways.

One last thought. I LOVED the example of Abraham and what God asked of him when God asked him to “lay his Issac down.” What a wonderful thread that tied her whole story together.

Thank you, Carol Kent, for your wonderful testimony and inspiring all of us in so many different paths.

Who should read this? This book is good for all those who want to be challenged past their comfortable walk with Jesus. It is also great for those who are experiencing the pain of disappointment and loss. It isn’t a hard read, but it is a heart read.

Where the Lost Wander By Amy Harmon

In 1853, newly widowed Naomi May sets out for the West with her family on the Oregon Trail which is filled with hardship, danger, and loss. During this travel she meets John Lowry. As the journey progresses and becomes more harrowing, they grow closer but their relationship is tested in intense and emotional ways.

After you have read a few of my book reviews it will become clear to you that Historical Fiction is definitely my favorite genre to read. This book did not disappoint. This book is filled with wonderful historical details and is really quite beautifully written. As a bonus the author gives notes at the end with extraordinary details of her own family history and what inspired this story.

This is definitely a love story, however, there is hardship and loss and survival that makes you keep turning page after page. I loved the characters and found myself cheering their loves and mourning their losses.

I loved learning more about Native American culture and giving myself time to consider how certain actions would have made them feel. I have always felt that pioneers did so many of them wrong. Looking back, we have made serious mistakes with other races and nationalities time after time. This is another book that will make you think about those actions.

I’m sure we will never know exactly how difficult the early pioneers had it when they traveled across America on the Oregon trail, but this book gives you a wonderful painting of what that could have been like.

My one negative is that the book began with a Prologue that was a serious spoiler so I kept reading the book anticipating the one big event. I wonder what it would be like to skip the prologue and just read from Chapter One? If I could go back and do that over, I would.

Warnings: There are several passages that are quite difficult to read. There is violence, massacres, a rape as well as other things. If you are sensitive to those things this is not a book for you.

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France – including those of her own family’s summer home – in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

This is Book #1 in a series SUNRISE AT NORMANDY. Of the three books I read this month, this was the easiest, fastest read. Hmmm. maybe it was an easy read because I enjoyed the story so much?

The story is well done. The characters drew me in and I was fascinated by the back story of both of the main characters which led to the reason they would act and react the way they did. In spite of that, they were lovable and I wanted them to be able to get past the mistakes they had each made individually and bask in the forgiveness of God!

Sarah writes with just the right amount of detail. You can lean into the time period and facts about the war and military so that the words paint an incredible picture. I loved the new British phrases I learned as well as the quirkiness of the cute Texan! I also loved thinking about all the backstory of preparations for D-Day about procedures I had never even given thought about.

If you are looking for a book that is a light romantic read with a touch of history thrown in or love books set in WWII. Then, I think this book is for you.

In case you wondered? I will be ordering the next two books in the series. I mean, we all need a little light romance read every once and awhile don’t we?

Warning: There are some mentions of premarital relationships.

That is it for this month. I hope you are reading. I know that it isn’t a past time that some enjoy, but it is so good for you! Will you try to read any of these?

Until next time,

Reba

“To Whom it May Inspire.” Thoughts from Creativity, Inc.

I am really jealous of my oldest daughter in one specific way. She seems to be able to make time to read…like really read maybe for an hour or hours a week. I’m not sure how she does it, but thinking back….there was a period of time in my life when I did the same thing. I’m desperately trying to regain that desire/ability, but still struggling a little.

A couple of year’s ago my daughter, Becca author of the Blog, Daily Joy, read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. She told me that I really NEEDED to read the book. To be honest, I kinda blew it off. Why did I want to read a book about the President of Pixar?? My mindset was that Pixar wasn’t Disney and I was too old for cartoons. So, when my daughter, Ashley, gave me the book for Christmas, I put it away.

Enter Covid. (Is it strange that every one of my blog posts lately say…Enter Covid? Life changing for sure….)

With Covid my world stopped and I tried to recreate good habits and get rid of old bad ones. I had previously made a New Year’s Resolution to read at least one book a month during this year. After a few light reads I decided to pull this book off the shelf.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story.

I cannot believe I waited this long to read this book. It was inspirational, motivational, entertaining and educational. This book tells the story of a man who had a dream and worked hard to build a company that set a new standard for a creative culture–believing at all times–that it is important to do the best work possible. I started reading it thinking that it was a great book to tell the story of Pixar, but quickly began telling my friends and anyone who would listen about the lessons I learned each day.Lessons that applied to me as a writer, director, story-teller, leader, President of a non-profit and maybe even just a person. I started taking notes realizing that this book is for me. Ed would tell stories about how they would write their scripts and I would find myself realizing that his struggles were things I needed to learn from.

My lessons didn’t stop there because Creativity, Inc. is also a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, and create a working environment that is successful, safe and causes each employee to also strive to be better.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” 

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.” 

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” 

“If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.” 

“Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.” 

“When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.” 

“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.” 

“Fear can be created quickly; trust can’t.” 

“Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.” 

“Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.” 

“What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?” 

“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.” 

“You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.” 

“Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent. The trust will come.” 

“The future is not a destination – it is a direction.” 

“We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.” 

“We want people to feel like they can take steps to solve problems without asking permission.” 

“THERE IS NOTHING quite like ignorance combined with a driving need to succeed to force rapid learning.” 

“Quality is the best business plan.” 

“it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”

The title, “To Whom it May Inspire.” is taken from a section of the book where Ed is talking about something he created called, “Notes Day.” He warns that things change and that they should and we shouldn’t be afraid of that change but instead approach it with fresh thinking. Ed received a letter from one of his animators, Austin Madison, which started, “To Whom it May Inspire,” He stated that like most artists he constantly shifts between two states. The first is white-hot, “in the zone.” A place where everything flows creatively. He says it only happened 3% of the time. The other happens the other 97% of the time and is when we are frustrated, struggling and throwing ideas out the window constantly. His advice?

PERSIST

PERSIST on telling your story.

PERSIST on reaching your audience.

PESIST on staying true to your vision.

That’s what we do. Keep on keeping on. Stay focused. Don’t give in.

I think there is comfort in the fact that we will always have problems: some we see right away and some that come out of nowhere….like COVID.

It isn’t the goal to avoid the problems or even to make things easier. The goal is to rise above the problem with excellence.

Who is this book for? EVERYONE. Honestly, do yourself a favor and read it. It isn’t a quick read because there is sooooo much to think about. You might be surprised. You might even shed a tear. It’s that good.

Link to the book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/0812993012/

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thank you in advance for commenting and for sharing this post!

Until next time,

Meet Guest Blogger–Kady Debalak

This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).

I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!


Cooking up Characters with Kady!
(did you like that alliteration?)
Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.

First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.


Michael Kum leads the students in an acting exercise during the creative process for “The Hobbit.”

An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.

I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like? Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´? And Jane Eyre..modern or historical? How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun? How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)


Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!

And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.

Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.

With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.

Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.

The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.

The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.

I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this:
My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.


I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.

From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.

But theater is not a solo endeavor.

Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!

ou can contact Kady at kdebelak@gmail.com

We would love to hear what you think about the creative process. Please take time to share this blog!

Until next time!

One Book Can Change the World

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.–Alberto Manguel

At the beginning of 2020 I read page after page of posts on Facebook from friends who beautifully recapped all the books they read during 2019. I was ashamed, informed, entertained and inspired. You see? I love to read, but somehow I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but after reading post after post I decided that the bad habit needed to be broken and I resolved to read at least one book a month during 2020.

I started off great during January and February, but as I was working on “Trip to Bountiful.” reading became a huge luxury because I needed to spend so much time on my lines. I vowed that I would still get back to reading. I just needed to make sure my lines were firmly embedded in my brain before moving on.

Then, our world stopped and reading…well, reading became everything. I must admit, I spent the first part of quarantine reading about the virus and the dangers and all the theories behind it, but slowly I pulled my head away from that and decided I wanted to be entertained instead.

Why is it that some of us love to read and others make ourselves read and still others don’t do it at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that subject because I’m not sure I know the answer and I’d love to hear theories.

For now, I’d like to share my January-March reading experience with you.

I had the honor of being in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank last year. I actually started this book at that time, but just couldn’t fight way my through it. I finished it this year. I’m not sure I could have picked a better book to begin my new journey with books.

BY Anne Frank

Do you know the story? It is the real life account of a young girl during WWII. Anne’s father, Otto, has the forsite to prepare a place for his family and one other to hide from the Germans. Anne faithfully writes in her diary the day-to-day activities during their time in hiding. She was thirteen when she began detailing her accounts. Most of us think of reading this book for school, but I think I learned even more reading it as an adult. I’m inspired at Anne’s intelligence and how prolifically she writes. Was it because she was trapped with adults for such a long time or has the world been robbed of a bright mind that would have given us such immeasurable greatness? When Overshadowed produced this play last year, we talked about living in cramped spaces with people who would grow to get on our nerves. We talked about eating the same things over and over and the idea of not being about to go outside and how that would feel. We talked about the fear of the unknown and dependance on others…..who knew that we would be experiencing a little of the same things? It makes me so thankful for what we DO have. Freedom at the top of the list.

Favorite quote:

As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?–Anne Frank

This book is available at Amazon! There are also other books that you might be interested in. Some of them are also in the photo above.

In February I read –The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor. https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Came-Home-Titanic/dp/0062316869

I loved this book! I am a fan of all things Titanic and this story about fourteen members of a small village in Ireland who journey towards America is captivating. We instantly love, Maggie, who is torn as she heads to a future that must be better, but ache for her as she leaves her true love behind. The story blends the past with the present as we meet Grace Butler who struggles to find focus on the future until her great-grandmother decides it is time to tell the story of….The Titanic.

This story is inspired by true events and the blending of history, fact and fiction reminded me of so many tragic decisions involved in the sinking of that great ship that changed the world forever.

Favorite Quote:

That night when Titanic went down was so terrible that some survivors, like me, wanted to stop talking about it. I suppose people move on, history moves on, and there will, sadly, always be something more terrible waiting around the corner.--Maggie

Why is that my favorite? Because it reminds us to talk, because stories teach. And it reminds us that life has wonderful times and terrible ones. We need to find the good in all of them.

In March I read News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt https://www.amazon.com/News-Our-Loved-Ones-Novel/dp/0062834746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

This one was a struggle to read. In fact, I had to make myself read a chapter a day to get finished with it. I found the disjointed way that she introduced her characters hard to follow. I continually went back and reread portions to see if I had missed something. It finally all came together in the end, but that’s too long to wait for the story to make sense. It also touched upon being very inappropriate at times. She didn’t go into detail, but it just made me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel that way when I read!

By the way, I do NOT receive anything for the recommendation of these books. This is just me…sharing things with you!

I’m not sure why I chose these three books for the beginning of this year. They all involved very deep topics and all three brought me to tears at times. My title for this blog was One Book Can Change the World. I truely believe it can. I think The Diary of a Young Girl did that. What books have your read that changed you or the world? Or…should you write one?

During this time of darkness….why not pick up a book and read!

Please take a moment to like and share this! And please let me know about books you have read!

Until next time,