Category Archives: thoughts

A Chat with Andrea Patten

Andrea Patten with Inner Critic

Like many of us, Andrea Patten has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother’s desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram’s classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

So, of course, one of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to “have a look” at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience.”

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

“I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces… Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have,” says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

“I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book’s purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults.”

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn’t work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that’s not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side… to make it an ally. You can learn to use its’ energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

A few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:
• loves you and wants to keep you safe,
• is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
• constantly scans your environment for threats, and • will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage?

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Check with your local indie bookstore for the softcover version of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. It is also available in e-book or softcover on amazon.com
Here is the Amazon link for all US formats.
Here is the link for Amazon UK. Andrea Patten-cover

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Filed under Andrea Patten, thoughts, Writing

A wonderful surprise!

Front of dust jacket-Pride and Prejudice 001

My sister has spent the last few weeks packing things to move house. This has been a long and exhausting endeavor for her and,
from time to time, she has sent things my way. Today, I came home to find two small boxes of treasure trove on my doorstep.
A few items were quite thrilling to me. One was my great-grandmother’s text book “The Standard Question Book and Home Study Outlines” which was published in 1920 and signed by her in 1922. I do not know if she acquired this for her own study, or if she was teaching and, sadly, have no one to ask. However, it indicates an interest in study that I share. Maybe my great-grandmother acquired the “Outlines” as a study guide for my grandmother. Another was a text book, “Outlines of European History Part II” which covered from the 17th century to the “War of 1914”, which belonged to my grandmother who was in her junior year. This volume appears to have been published in 1916. I am so excited to see this, as it covers a lot of material in which I am interested from a different perspective than some of the more recently-published histories that I have read. There were some other gems as well. However, the real prize for me was a volume of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen.

As you can see, the dust jacket had a picture of Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier, who starred in the 1940 film version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. This volume was published by Grosset & Dunlap, a publisher who was one of the first (if not the first) to use movie still on dust jackets and as inserts. There is also another illustration inside the volume, which shows Miss Bingley, played by Frieda Inescort, trying to catch the attention of Mr. Darcy (Lawrence Olivier). Although the dust jacket is damaged (the spine, back and back flap are missing), the book itself is in pretty good condition and has my grandmother’s signature on the fly leaf. I know she kept the remaining portion of the dust jacket carefully in the back of the book (I suspect she was a fan of Mr. Olivier-who can blame her?). As best I can tell, this was published sometime in the 1940’s, but there is no date in the book. This book was accompanied by The Pocket Library paperback edition of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE published in 1954, and printed in 1958. This little volume is complete worn out-I have a feeling that this was my grandmother’s “reading copy” while the other was one of her cherished possessions. The best part is that my sister, knowing of my interest in all things Austen, made the effort to pack these up and send them to me. It was so thoughtful of her to think of me-the links between my great-grandmother, my grandmother and sister make these items very special treasures.

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Filed under Jane Austen, Old books, Special treasures, thoughts

A Real Treat…

As I’m sure you know, I am a sucker for old books. I have in my hands a special treat, PLAYS OF SHERIDAN from the Library of English Classics. It is a single volume of the Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan published in 1920 by MacMillan and Co. Ltd. in London 1920. There is, of course, the obligatory biographical note, and then the richness… The Rivals, The Critic, my personal favorite The School for Scandal… There is of course more, but the secret pleasure is the volume itself. The dense paper, the half leather, half fabric binding, the hint of gilt. The spine has the gilding, the cartouches, the ribs – altogether, a luxurious volume that is as much a pleasure to hold as to see, never mind the treasures within. I have not taken a picture as yet. Somehow, I don’t think I can do it justice…

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Filed under Georgian England, History, plays, Regency era, Sheridan, theatrics, thoughts

Fruitcake for Christmas

Recently, I posted about my secret fondness for fruitcake, and my intention to make one this year. Well, I did it, and it was a success! I went through several cookbooks, searched on-line for a recipe, and finally selected Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake (find it HERE: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/free-range-fruitcake-recipe/index.html). I did not follow it exactly (some differences in the fruit used, the liquid used to soak the fruit, and the nuts) but the method worked extremely well, and the fruitcake is delicious! Moist, dense, spicy, packed with fruit and nuts. My husband, who ducks and runs when fruitcake is mentioned, tasted it and liked it. (He ate the whole slice!) Here it is:

Fruitcake! 001

I’m so glad I made this cake, and plan to make it again. Not only is it delicious, but it’s part of a tradition going back hundreds of years. From Eliza Smith’s “Plumb Cake” in The Compleat Housewife and Hannah Glasses “Rich Cake” in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy to fruitcake of today, the ingredients and methods are strikingly similar. Baking from scratch is a special pleasure, one I had almost forgotten as I do it so seldom. Friends and family, who knows what may be in that Christmas gift next year? Just taste it before you make that face – I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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Filed under Christmas, Cooking, Eliza Smith, recipes, THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE, thoughts

Watch this space…

Voltaire Welcoming His Guests, by Jean Huber

Tomorrow, my very first guest blogger will be posting. Grace Elliot is a talented historical fiction author with four books to her credit, a contributor to the English Historical Fiction Authors’ blog, and has her own blog Fall in Love with History (http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com). In her other life, she is a veterinarian! I know you will enjoy her post, so please be here tomorrow! Don’t forget to share!

(Illustration: Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/Jean_Huber_-_Voltaire_Welcoming_his_Guests_-_WGA11785.jpg/388px-Jean_Huber_-_Voltaire_Welcoming_his_Guests_-_WGA11785.jpg )

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The Hum of Summer

Moth by Eleazar Albin 1720

It’s summertime, and the air is full of buzzing and humming (not to mention whining and slapping noises!). I have purple porterweed blooming by my door. One early morning, I was absolutely entranced by the cloud of white butterflies that flitted from bloom to bloom. It was amazing and exquisite to watch. The same bush attracts honey bees; not so exquisite (and sometimes a little scary when they buzz up to me when I go out), but the hum of bees as they busy themselves in the flowers is still an important element of summer. I do like honey so I give the bees plenty of room.

Then, there are those other summer visitors: flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and more. Not to mention that ancient scourge, bed bugs! How to eliminate pests without affecting the pleasant and beneficial insects, or ourselves, has been a concern down through time. While some of the earlier remedies are rather off-putting, others are pleasant as well as effective.

An infallible Receipt to destroy Bugs in Eliza Smith’s THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE is a concoction of egg whites and quicksilver (mercury) at the rate of 1 ounce of quicksilver for every five or six eggs. These ingredients are mixed well, and beat together in a wooden dish with a brush until the quicksilver is barely visible. This is applied to the cleaned and disassembled bedstead (brushed clean, not washed). The mixture must be rubbed into all cracks and joints and allowed to dry. You cannot wash the bedstead afterwards. According to the recipe, the first application will destroy the bugs; if not, a second application will finish the job. This is clearly a remedy for the loathsome bedbug. However, we now know that mercury is highly toxic. The idea of leaving an emulsion of egg white and mercury on a bed is almost as distasteful at the bug itself; I was also not attracted by the idea of not washing the bedstead before or after the application. (The old fashioned remedy of burning the bed suddenly seems more reasonable!) Don’t try this at home…

It’s so much pleasanter to think of lavender and its many uses. It is a wonderful insect repellent. I had excellent results using it to deter silverfish and other fabric-loving bugs that loved to lurk in my laundry room in a previous residence. No matter how I cleaned or what I used, the little wretches would reappear, until I made lots of little lavender bags and tucked them into the backs of shelves, in corners and so forth. They never came back. Dried lavender, alone or mixed with other herbs such as rosemary, not only gives clothes or linens stored in closets, chests of drawers or other storage containers a wonderful smell; it discourages moths as well. So much more pleasant than moth balls, and not poisonous!

A few drops of lavender oil or essence in water makes a very soothing solution; it can soothe a slight burn and helps relieve an itch. A Jane Austen Household Book with Martha Lloyd’s Receipes contains a recipe for Lavender Water, and instructions “To Make A Sweet Pot” which seems to be a potpourri which contains violets, roses, thyme, lavender and other flowers and herbs. A health food store I frequent carries a wonderful lavender witch hazel solution. Culpeper’s COMPLETE HERBAL & English Physician credits lavender with numerous healing virtues. If nothing else, a spray of lavender water on a pillow creates a lovely and soothing atmosphere for a good night’s sleep. You won’t even notice all that humming!

Take a look at:
Hickman, Peggy. A JANE AUSTEN HOUSEHOLD BOOK with Martha Lloyd’s recipes. 1977: David & Charles Inc. North Pomfreet, NY.

Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpeper’s COMPLETE HEREBAL and English Physician. 1981: Harvey Sales-reproduces from edition published in 1826.

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat HOUSEWIFE. 1994: Studio Editions Ltd., London, England. First published in 1758.

Image: Wikipedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Albin_Eleazar_Moth_1720.png

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Filed under bugs, Culpeper's Herbal, Eliza Smith, herbal, History, Jane Austen, lavender, recipes, summer, THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE, thoughts

What Matters In Jane Austen?

Any fan of Jane Austen’s novels has become accustomed to seeing new books about her, her novels and her writing skills almost on a daily basis. I recently purchased and read WHAT MATTERS IN JANE AUSTEN? Twenty Crucial Problems Solved by John Mullan (Bloomsbury Press, 2013). I found this to be an enjoyable read, and a useful work. Mr. Mullan has presented a collection of essays dealing with certain concepts that appear in Jane Austen’s novel, and explaining their significance. Questions of age, the importance of the weather, who speaks or (just as importantly) who never speaks, illness, blushing and other topics all are examined. In each of these chapters, Mr. Mullan’s insights gave me additional perspective on each novel. These new perspectives have made me more aware of points of view, mores of the time, Austen’s subtlety, and other things that have deepened my appreciation and enjoyment of Austen’s writing.

For example, in the chapter about weather, Mr. Mullan indicates that Jane Austen is the first novelist to point out weather shifts that might occur during any normal day, and to use them to highlight and to move her plots. While I cannot address his contention that Austen is the first to use weather in this way, I can say that, after reading this chapter, I have a much keener awareness of and appreciation for the significance of the weather throughout her novels. It isn’t that the reader is unaware of the impact of the weather on the various stories; Mr. Mullan’s discussion has a way of highlighting the significance of the weather and its changes in context. Many modern readers live in a climate-controlled situation. Going to visit a friend on a rainy day means going from one’s door to one’s car, barely dampened by the rain. The real effect of walking three miles on a rainy day in a muddy lane doesn’t have the immediacy for us that it would have had for Jane Austen’s contemporaries. After reading Mr. Mullan’s essay, I am much more aware of the significance of the mentions of the weather in the novels, and have found that this increased awareness has brought even more life to the stories. Sometimes he addressed things that I felt, but had not consciously thought about in reading the novels. The other chapters have had a similar effect for me. It was interesting to find that some topics that seemed obvious had depths I had not previously considered sufficiently.

Mr. Mullan’s writing style is very easy to read, with a conversational tone. It is rather like reading letters from a friend who explains why he liked something or found an idea important. He is obviously well versed, citing Austen’s letters and the novels in support of his ideas very convincingly. The chapters are titled, and each reads well. He provides notes and a bibliography, so the reader can study further. I enjoyed reading it, and especially enjoy the fact that my appreciation for Austen’s writing has only increased.

Here is a link to this book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/What-Matters-Jane-Austen-Crucial/dp/1620400413/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369686970&sr=1-1&keywords=what+matters+in+jane+austen

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Filed under Jane Austen, Reviews, thoughts, Writing