Archive for Book Reviews Posts

published in Book Reviews, Change, Death, Grief, Inspiration, Life After Loss by Maryanne | August 7, 2018 | 4 Comments

Note: At the time of writing this blog (Aug 7th, 2018) Yosemite National Park is closed due to the Ferguson wildfire. Thousands of tourists have been evacuated and two firefighters have died. My thoughts & prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the firefighters.

The Healing Power of Nature – Mountains of Light Book Review

 

“I want to simplify my life so that I’m not worn out and frustrated at the end of every workday. I want to move at a pace that helps me notice what is around me and gives me the chance to interact with it.”

– R. Mark Liebenow, Mountains of Light

Looking for a late-summer read?

I recently finished Mark Liebenow’s beautiful book, Mountains of Light; Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite. I have always wanted to visit Yosemite National Park. After reading Mark’s book, now I really want to go!

This non-fiction read is about Mark’s journey of coming to terms with the death of his wife, Evelyn. It is in nature – through repeated visits at different times of the year to Yosemite – where Mark finds peace with his wife’s passing.

This makes sense. In my experience, spending time in nature and/or with animals seem to be able to soothe chaotic thoughts and emotional turmoil like nothing else.

Here are a few snippets from Mountains of Light:

“I feel edgy and certain of my mortality. I came here wanting Yosemite to shake me out of my stupor and help me face death. And it has, but it feels like Yosemite wants to do this by having me listen to its stories.”

“Mark Twain regretted knowing what lay beneath the swells in the water as he learned to guide riverboats down the Mississippi River because he no longer saw its beauty.”

Part of me no longer cares why natural places affect me so deeply, and I’m not really concerned about what does or doesn’t have a soul. If I say that every part of creation reveals something about nature’s reality then I’m challenged to look at everything with respect and find insights…the wild outdoors simply inspire me.” 

Another observation that struck me about Mark’s book was the significant difference between how he chose to share his grief, through his story, and how I shared my experience with grief in my book, A Widow’s Awakening.

I’m not sure whether this is a gender thing or not i.e. do women tend to be more open than men about sharing the details of their emotional journey?

In A Widow’s Awakening, I yank the lid right off Pandora’s Box of Grief and let it ALL out: the devastation, the hurt, the hatred, self-pity, anger, jealousy, bitterness…the confusing thoughts, conflicting emotions and spiritual isolation.

To be honest, I haven’t read that many books about grief, so I found Mark’s candid but subtle journey intriguing. There was definitely a sense of inner struggle as he tried to come to peace with his wife’s passing but it was rather enlightening to read a personal memoir by an author who I suspect is an extremely private person. The depth of his loss and subsequent sorrow is immense; how he chose to communicate that loss to his reader was very different to my approach.

And that’s a good thing.

For everyone grieves differently. And different authors approach the same subject matter in their own unique way. And yet, despite our differences – as people, as writers – we are still able to find the common threads of love, loss, passion and peace.

“Evelyn’s presence is always with me, especially when I spend time at Happy Isles, her favourite place in the valley. I’m surrounded by the words of John Muir, as well as by owl and hawk, mountain lion and bear, raven and jay, coyote and ouzel, which often show up unexpectedly with surprising inflections of wisdom. I’ve finally accepted that death is a necessary part of life and that I have had to turn away from home and live in the backcountry of stone for a while to deal with my grief. In spring I think I will be ready to turn back toward life.”

R. Mark Liebenow

On a less personal but equally important note, I read Mountains of Light while writing the next draft of my screenplay, God’s Country, about Canadian-born silent screen star, Nell Shipman. Nell’s story is very much about her love of the natural world and wild animals. Mountains of Light was the perfect book to be reading while working on this script. I think we sometimes lose sight of how much wisdom the wilderness holds. And what we lose sight of, we risk losing.

I highly recommend reading this beautiful book.

Retriever not included in book giveaway 🙂

*Win a copy of Mountains of Light

If you would like chance to win a copy, please send us an e-mail by Aug 15th, with the subject line, “Mountains of Light,” and your name will be entered into the draw.

*Contest open to WWOW (Weekly Words of Wisdom) subscribers only. If you’re not a subscriber but would like to be 🙂 here is the link to sign up.

A Widow’s Awakening Novel Coming Sept 13th

Please visit BHC Press to pre-order.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

 

published in Book Reviews, Change, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Habits, Inspiration, Productivity by Maryanne | June 12, 2018 | 2 Comments

WHEN? Why Time of Day Matters

 

“The best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task.”

– Daniel Pink, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Just going to tackle that oh-so-important task any old time?

Think again…on when.

I recently finished reading Daniel Pink’s latest book, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It is excellent.

In terms of brain-power, “Our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day,” Pink explains. “We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others.”

This may seem obvious (I, for example, am pretty much useless after 8 p.m.) but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily taken into account when making decisions or solving problems.

And this can lead to problems – often as the result of making poor decisions. “The effects,” cautions Pink, “can be significant but are often beneath our comprehension.”

Most of us are sharper in the morning

“The best time to perform a particular task,” Pink says, “depends on the nature of that task.” According to the research, for the majority of people, our sharp-minded analytic capacities – our ability to concentrate and our powers of deduction – peak in the late morning or around noon.

Why? Because “when our minds are in vigilance mode,” explains Pink, “as they tend to be in the mornings, we can keep distractions outside the cerebral gates…but our alertness and energy levels that climb in the morning and reach their peak around noon, tend to plummet during the afternoons. And with that drop comes a corresponding fall in our ability to remain focused and constrain our inhibitions.”

Not all brain work is the same

I found this differentiation fascinating:

An analytic problem doesn’t require any special creativity or acumen. Yes, it can be tricky but it has a single correct answer and you can reach that answer via logic.

Whereas an insight problem is one in which reasoning in a methodical, algorithmic way won’t yield a correct answer. Rather, the answer will (eventually) come after a “flash of illuminance” – otherwise known as an aha! moment, which can help you see the facts in a new way…and then you will be more likely to solve the problem.

So, for most of us, when our brains are in vigilance-mode in the morning, we are better able to solve analytic problems by keeping out distractions. “In the mornings, most of us (but not all) excel at analytic work that requires sharpness, vigilance, and focus. Later in the day, during recovering, most of us do better on insight problems that require less inhibition and resolve.”

Why? “Because insight problems are different,” says Pink. “They require less vigilance and fewer inhibitions. That flash of illuminance is more likely to occur when the guards are gone.”

In fact, there is a term for this phenomenon: “inspiration paradox.”

Get this: “Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to circadian rhythms.”

If you are not familiar with circadian rhythms, Pink examines the findings on those as well. But basically there are several different “chronotypes,” one of which a person falls under. A chronotype is “a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology.”

For example, I am an early bird (or “lark”). I have the most energy and get my best work done early in the morning – but don’t expect much out of me in the evening (unless I’ve had a nap).

Pink’s book resonated with me because it makes sense. I figured out a long time ago that I did my best writing in the early mornings. The trick has been for me to learn how to stay clear of looking at e-mails or social media until after I have finished my writing for the day.

In the first part of the morning, I am better able to avoid allowing myself to become distracted. I have learned, time and again, that once I have “just taken a peek at e-mail,” I am sucked into the vortex…and my writing – my intense-focus work – for the day is done. So for me, I wait until later in the morning or early afternoon to tend to my e-mail.

Whereas mid to late afternoon has always been down-time for my brain. I’m not alone. This is the time of day that Pink calls a “trough.” In fact, most people are not at their sharpest mid-afternoon. Yet they plow on through – often because their work requires them to. I fade out big-time in the mid to late afternoon and try to either have a nap, do appointments or errands, go for a walk or do a work task that requires less brain-power such as filing, dishes, folding laundry, etc.

But for me, it is often during this mental down-time that the greatest insights come – often pertaining to the writing project I was working on in the early morning. If so, then I just jot down a quick note, then incorporate it into the project when I am sharp and focused again the next morning.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the time of day impacts how your brain works, I highly recommend When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Along similar lines is Chris Bailey’s brilliant book, The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention and Energy.

Here are two blogs I wrote about The Productivity Project:

Hey Busy Bee – How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours? 

Do you Procrastinate? Here’s a Tip – Think of Your Future Self

I love learning about how to make better use of my day so that I can get done what needs to get done, in as little time as possible. As I get older, I want to be spending less time in front of the computer, not more.

Interestingly, when I share with people what I am learning about circadian rhythms and how to best utilize our daily energy and focus to maximize productivity, I often hear a comment to the effect of: “Well, you’re lucky you get to work when you are the most productive. Most of us have to work when our jobs require us to work and we just have to make the best of it.”

I never know what to say this. Yes, it’s true: I am blessed to be able to work when I work best – and I take full advantage of that.

But I suspect there may often be some room for tweaking one’s work schedule to better suit one’s energy levels. Individuals working at their highest productivity leads to more productive organizations…and safer, healthier and happier ones, too.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

 

Join the Journey – Request an Early Review Copy of A Widow’s Awakening before June 30th

 

“The experience of reading this book is nothing less than a journey. One woman’s journey from the death of her husband, through the search for some meaning, and finally to a level of acceptance. I’m sure there isn’t one among us who hasn’t been on the same search at one point in our lives and can relate to her story. I hesitate to use the term “story”, because it doesn’t do it justice. With this being a true event, it has much more meaning than a work of fiction. I really enjoyed this book and could relate to her struggle.”

– AWA reader, LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program

Request Your Early Review Copy by June 30th, 2018

If you’re interested in reading A Widow’s Awakening by Maryanne Pope before it’s official release by BHC Press on Sept 13th, check out the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

If you follow that link, on the right hand side of the page is a link to sign up as a LibraryThing member. Then you can request a free copy to read and review. You may not receive a copy, as only 50 books will given away in this June promotion – but it’s worth a shot.

The publisher (BHC Press) did the first round of the Early Reviewers Program in April – and the reviews from that round are starting to come in. And they’re…GREAT! Here’s another one:

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although the title may lead you into thinking it was going to be somewhat depressing this wasn’t the case. The author shared her pain, memories, (sometimes) weird and random thoughts on death and what comes after. Really well written, not boring, sometimes sad enough to bring tears to my eyes but on the whole an enjoyable read.”

– AWA Reader, LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program

For more reader testimonials, please click here.

About A Widow’s Awakening…

Do you believe in soul mates? What if the death of your soul mate meant the birth of your life-long dream?

A Widow’s Awakening is a fictional account based on the true story of a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her police officer husband who died while investigating a break and enter complaint.

Engaging, powerful, heart-wrenching, and at times humorous, this honest look at the first year of a widow’s grief captures the immense difficulty of learning how to accept the unacceptable while transforming loss into positive change – and is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Pre-Order A Widow’s Awakening

The book will be released on Sept 13th, 2018 and will be available in print & as an e-book wherever books are sold. To place your pre-order, please visit the A Widow’s Awakening page on the BHC Press website for a list of all the on-line retailers taking pre-orders.

History of the book

Please click here to learn a bit of the journey A Widow’s Awakening has already been on!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.