Entries Tagged 'THE WRITERS’ CORNER' ↓


Communion by Lily Nathan Let’s talk about what matters . . .

I want to talk about Literary Contests. A friend read a draft of this post and was horrified.
“You mean you don’t like book contests? What about. . .” She named a bunch of good ones. Foreword Magazine’s contest, the IPPYS, Indie Excellence, Best Books.

Please don’t think I don’t like book awards or contests when you read this. I do. I love them and will keep entering them as long as I have books to enter.

My comments pertain to the results of one contest in particular, and to literary and other competitions in general. I’ve competed a lot in my life, for grades and jobs, and in the horse show arena. Now with my books.

I’ve learned a great deal through competing. I’d still be riding our horses competitively if I weren’t falling apart physically. Competitions are fun, great ways to learn. They bring people together. And tear them apart.

The thing about contests is: People can be hurt in them. (I’ll give you an example below.) The other thing about literary contests is: What to they measure? What does winning mean?

We’ll look at this, bringing in information from non-literary areas as relevant.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE cover NUMENON Stepping Off the Edge & Numenon by Sandy Nathan

And they love me: To date, my books have won six awards in national competitions.

Winning is so great. Writing and getting published are lots of work. Writing is a solitary and sometimes depressing job. I was delighted when I found out that I had won. Each award was a bright and shining moment in a sea of slog.

My feelings about book contests could have stayed blindingly positive, except that one of the contests to returned the judges’ score sheets to the participants. I’m assuming that this was an attempt to share knowledge and make us better writers or publishers.

The experience of receiving those sheets and reading their contents prompted this rumination into competition in general and literary contests in particular.


When I opened the first envelope, I was enthralled. “Oh, look at this––the judge’s score sheet. How nice . . . Oh, isn’t that interesting?” The enclosed responses were positive, needless to say.

My cheery enthusiasm didn’t last long.

As more envelopes arrived, I opened them with increasing trepidation. I was a winner in one category of this contest. Did that mean the other judges would like me?

No, baby. By the time all eighteen arrived, I shredded the envelopes in hostile shock. What else could they say?

The judges’ score sheets had were places for comments and a bunch of questions, ten or more, evaluating aspects of the book. The judges ranked each book from 1 to 10. (Is the cover the right side up? Are there typos all over? Is it in proper English?)

Sandy & Robin Rose at Tally Ho, the Menlo Circus Club 1965.

I entered six categories, using an approach similar to what our ranch uses showing horses. If we have a young show prospect and are trying to figure out which classes to enter him in, we stand back and evaluate the animal. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Where will he do best?

At first we enter him in everything that seems to fit. The results will tell us where he belongs. (One result is that he doesn’t belong in the show arena.)

We take an empirical approach, in other words.

I did the same thing with my books; I put them everywhere I thought they had a chance.


I’d like to share with you some of the individual comments that judges made about my book. You tell me if these words would encourage you as a writer or be the tipping point that puts you back into waitressing as a profession.

Some of the comments were wonderful to read, like “I can’t see anything wrong with this book.” Some were professional pieces of criticism, like the guy who didn’t like my index. That was a rational response and I learned something.

Then we have, in Best New Voice (and I’ve paraphrased slightly), “You don’t have a voice.” And, “You don’t have the credentials to write the book you did.”

I beg your pardon, I do. Should I have sent a resume? And it was a memoir. Did that judge think I didn’t have the credentials to write about my own life?

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE I’m so glad that I didn’t know that I wasn’t qualified to write this book. That might have kept me from writing it.

And from a judge in the memoir area, “Well, it’s well written and interesting, but it comes down to the same old story: finding a spiritual life.” What? Isn’t that why we’re here? Duh. I guess that judge wanted fireworks and perversion. I put those in my fiction, thank you.

“The illustrations don’t go with the text.” I beg your pardon. I refer to them in the text.

“There’s a lot of information in here. It might be useful to someone, somewhere . . .”

There were more lovelies like this. I’ve repressed the rest. The overall effect of this barrage was to make me want to storm the offices of the . . . No.

I felt like quitting writing. After spending three years writing the book and going through the publication process, to be dismissed so rudely was a slap in the face.

Everybody loves to hear nice things about his or her work; criticism is hard to take. But this was more than that. It was rude.

This was not helpful, contest people. Not at all.

This reminded me of an earlier event in my life. After I got my MA in counseling, I did an internship at a major counseling center. We used the then-popular technique of having a family doing therapy with a experienced counselor on one side of one-way mirrored glass walls, while a bunch of us interns and supervisors sat on the other side, watching and listening to the piped in therapy session. (Why anyone needing counseling would expose him or herself this, I can’t imagine.)

Counselors are usually really nice people, especially when they’re counseling their clients. Off duty, or when they don’t think anyone’s listening, they can be as catty and rotten as anyone else. That’s what I observed. Some of the comments my fellow counselors made were appalling. Wow, I thought. Don’t you think that’s a little judgmental?

Those kinds of comments appeared on the judging sheets. Such comments are best kept to oneself, or between the judges trying to make a hard call. They should not returned to the contestant.


After viewing the comments on the scorecards, I would have been blown away had the rest of the results not been available. These consisted of the “circle a number” area where they evaluated stuff like number of errors and if the book’s pages were falling out.

I had eighteen score sheets, producing a array of numbers. Oh, God! I love numbers. I have a BA and an MA in economics and worked for years as an economic analyst, looking at arrays of data like those before me. Yummy!

One of the things I noticed when the sheets arrived was the numerical “grades” I got. I examined the overall score, and then all scores of aspects of my book. If the judging of objective factors were consistent, one would expect that the scores would be fairly consistent across all six contests.

Right? If one judge found lots of mistakes, so would all the rest?

Not so. About half the judges found my book a marvel of writing skill and design, and the scores crowded toward the high side of possible ratings. In fact, as I noted, one judge said words to the effect of, “Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with this book.”

The other half of the judges found it utterly mediocre. Full of boo-boos, uninviting to ugly in design, poorly written, and so on.

(And no, contest sponsors, I didn’t find this feedback helpful.) I knew what had gone into this book––who copyedited and proofread it. How much time was spent on it.

The thing was tight as a tick’s back.

Something was wrong.

The returns with the negative comments went with the sheets that rated the book poorly. The judges that said positive things didn’t see the typographical blunders the others reported. A split existed in the data between the like-its and don’t like-its.

I thought, This is weird. But I knew if the numbers split like that, something was going on. Maybe question being answered was wrong.

The question wasn’t, “How good is my book?” but “What do the judges like?”

This is not bad. This happens wherever judges judge. Do not read this and what follows and swear off book contests! This is about how people work.

My experience from horse shows was helpful here. One of the things I know from showing horses is that judges like the kind of horse they like. They place those horses high wherever they show up. Oftentimes, this can be in classes where they don’t seem to belong, like fire breathing steeds dashing around the arena in laid back pleasure horse classes––and winning.

The judge liked that type of animal.

That’s what my scorecards showed. My writing falls in the New Age, Religious Fiction, and Visionary Fiction categories, and maybe a few nonfiction groups. Sure enough, those are the judges that liked my work. That’s what I should have entered to start.

Life is like walking over  bridge: Do it right or fall in.


If you or your publisher is entering a contest, put your book in the category that best fits it.

It’s marketing. Know what your market is and pitch to it. Pitch yourself to that market, too. Your web site, publisher, marketing staff; everything associated with you should aim you to a tight presentation of who you are.

Everyone has told to find my niche. I hated that, but the judge’s scorecards told the tale. They guys who love my area, loved my book. They didn’t see any typos. Those who hate spiritual biographies with teaching notes saw flaws I don’t even think were there.


Competition is not for babies or unsophisticated souls.

My husband and I have been showing Peruvian horses since the late 1980s. I began showing horses in 1960. We maintain a list of judges who like the kind of horses we like and breed––and those who don’t. If a judge who doesn’t like our type is judging, we don’t go to the show as competitors.

The same sort of thing occurs for books, except that you won’t know who’s judging in most cases. Here are some different kinds of judging that occur in the world of books.

BIG CONTESTS, INDEPENDENT PRESSES: Indie Excellence, IPPYs, Foreword Magazine. Thousands of books are entered in these contests. Anonymous judges, anonymous writers for the most part. (I.e., the judge doesn’t know the author––except when he/she does. Some big names enter these.)

Judging should be pretty straightforward. If the judges don’t know who you are, they can’t judge your lifestyle or what you’ve written your entire life. So your book should be judged on its merits, and the taste of the judge.

Here, positioning yourself and your book depends upon the book itself––cover, text, production quality––and placing it in the right category.

As we have seen, entering your book in the wrong category can bury you.


Whole different ball game. These are the big players. Everyone knows the authors and the publishers. The judges may or may not be known. (Anybody know? Are the judges announced?)

Never having been in this competition, I can only give you examples from people I know who have competed at illustrious levels.

In the world of horses, let me say only that friends of ours have one of the top winning stallion in the United States. He’s an amazing animal with incredible beauty and quality of movement. Gorgeous. They have to have an armed guard watching him at shows.

What winning stirs up.

My cousin’s husband has been nominated for a Grammy six or seven times. He’s a sound engineer. He works for a small recording studio who doesn’t “dance the dance.” Promote him in the industry.

Wanna talk about the Oscars? I know some members of the Academy . . .

From the world of ice skating: A friend’s daughter competed in Ice Dancing, she was ten when they finally “found a partner for her!” The partner was a thirteen-year-old boy who moved to California from his home state, living with my friend and her family. Broke up his life and went to live with strangers so the kids could prepare for competition when they were adults. This is normal in skating.

My friend went on to describe how the judging goes. Competitors are often typecast like B movie stars when they’re youngsters. So we have Nancy Kerrigan, the good girl; Tonya Harding, the bad girl. (They often behave to suit.) What is being judged on the ice is a performance, and an entire life as a skater.

I expect the really big literary prizes, like the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes are similar: They’re Lifetime Achievement Awards. They may express a widespread appreciation of an author’s work, or they may be the opinion of a group of literati representing 1/9999th percent of the population.

Does that mean the books given the big awards are the best in the nation or world? No, it means that a particular set of judges (and associated cultural community) liked them and their authors & publishers best in the field before them.

Most of us are not going to compete for a National Book Award. And most of us are aware of what big competition is like. Look at pro sports. College sports.

Get real when you compete. If your writing doesn’t win or sell, does that mean it’s bad? No, it means you’d better have a trust fund or day job. And look at it objectively. Improve yourself. Take classes, join a writing group. (Quit the writing group if you feel lower than ground up manure after it. These people are not perfect.)

You don’t have to be an award-winning writer, but if you compete, know the score. Put yourself in the right place, with the right book properly tricked out. And copy edited and proofed. With a great cover, interior design . . .


These are contests held within colleges or universities or between them and can be particularly heart breaking. The people competing, usually young people, are developing themselves as writers in an academic setting. They often see their instructors as mentors and idols. The instructors are likely to have a strong background in literary fiction or a particular area. Grades and placements outside of school may be tied to contest performance.

Fads exist in writing just like shoes. The current fad may not be the best writing, but it will win.

Here’s a true story: A young writer that I consider brilliant entered an academic writing contest. (Actually, his professors entered him.) This young man writes some of the most beautiful, lyrical prose and poetry I’ve read. His rhythm is FLAWLESS. He writes about finding who we really are and overcoming personal obstacles.

He didn’t win anything in the contest. “All the winners were in the same clique. They hang around the department together, ‘We are the writers.’ The faculty agrees.

“What the winners wrote was pornography.” The young man described the content of the winning stories; I agree with his assessment. He was very downhearted.

I told him just what I’ve told you. Writing and the arts have fashions and cliques. That community isn’t “the one” that knows all.

I have two master’s degrees and was a PhD student in one of the top universities in the country. I’ve meditated with a brilliant teacher for thirty-seven years. I’ve had four professional careers.

I’ve been around. I’m not bound like one-career people who think doing well in their field is the most important in the universe. I’ve jumped boundaries. I’ve rammed my way through my own personal barriers. I’m not perfect, but I’m moving in the right direction, and I’ve covered some ground, intrapersonally.

I’ve worked for people who are really, really brilliant shapers of lives. People who are more than their verbal IQ. People who are doing what I think human beings should do. Check out: Dr. Richard T. Pascale, Dr. David Bradford, and Dr. Kirk Hanson. Just Google them.

These people do not “feel” like many of those I have met in the literary world. They don’t see with glasses constrained to “writing is the only thing that matters” and “I went to Iowa and nothing else need be said.” I don’t sense the ego I feel from those I meet at literary functions.

I’ve seen more cliques in my writing life than I ever did in high school––and less recognition that adolescent behavior is in play.

What does this mean?

Be aware of all this. You can make your work into a winner. It’s just like showing a horse. I transformed myself into a gawky kid––Ichabod Crane on horseback––into a consistent winner. It takes lots of work. A total transformation.

But it’s doable.

Be aware of the limitations of literary contests and what the really measure. They don’t measure your personal worth, or even the quality of your writing. They are fun to win and may help with your book’s marketability.

What do judges of literary contests judge? What they like. Their own value systems.

Treegod by Zoe Nathan
Hang strong, folks!

My best wishes to you,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy on her Peruvian Paso horse; not a kid any more.

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Sandy Nathan Sandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

I’m so excited about being on the Full Power Living radio show! Full Power Living is the only internationally-broadcast radio show dedicated to “awakening the world to the power and importance of human emotions.”

And feelings are important, as those who have been knocked over by powerful reactions to seemingly trivial events can testify. Our feelings have their own logic and are tied directly to our deepest values and beliefs.

ilenedillon1.jpg Ilene Dillon, M.F.T., L.C.S.W.

Full Power Living is hosted by Ilene L. Dillon, M.F.T., L.C.S.W. Ilene has been a psychotherapist for almost forty years, teaching thousands of people how to use their emotions to master life challenges. You can learn more about Ilene from her web site, Emotional Pro.


To listen to the show, log on to World Talk Radio (www.worldtalkradio.com). Once the site is up, click on Studio A, which you’ll see close to the top of the screen on the left. Another screen will come up with a navigation bar indicating the days of the week. It’s right about in the middle of the screen. Click on Thursday, and then scroll to 9 AM. Ilene and I will be there!

We’re going to be focusing on my book, Stepping Off the Edge, and how I treat emotions in it, as well as how I use emotions in my work as a writer and in my life. I have to tell you, effectively using my emotional world was one of the things that allowed me to write my books and see them published. So far, my books have won six national awards.

If you’ve read Stepping Off the Edge or my ‘zines and articles, you may want to ask me a question or make a comment. The Full Power Living show is your chance! Call toll free during the show––AUGUST 9TH 9 TO 10 AM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME. In North America, you can call toll-free: 866-613-1612. Outside North America, the toll free number is 001-858-268-3068. I hope to hear from you!

If you miss the show, it will be archived on the radio station, Ilene’s web site, and my site, sandynathan.com But I hope you can make it: August 9, 2007, 9 AM.
SANDY & REY DE CORAZONES I’m in the saddle, doing what I love. Horse are like emotions; when you’re skillful, you can control them with the subtlest cues, substituting understanding and teamwork for force.

NUMENON Numenon, The Bloodsong Series I.
will not be released officially until late 2007 or early 2008. But––we’ll have pre-release copies available soon. Very soon, I’ll post a link so you can order your copy. The first book of The Bloodsong Series, Numenon has been getting more hits than anything on my web site. Winner of the 2007 National Indie Excellence Award for Religious Fiction.

What’s Numenon about?

Join the richest man in the world and his top executives on a journey that may cost their lives. Will Duane, founder and CEO of Numenon, Inc., surprises his team by telling them that they’re going to a Native American retreat in New Mexico.

He doesn’t tell them that his dream of transforming the world through enlightened capitalism is all but dead and that he’s falling apart. He doesn’t say that the security of his home has been breached. Nor does he reveal a terrifying, prophetic dream. And he certainly doesn’t tell them about the mine . . .

An ancient Native shaman awaits them at the mysterious Mogollon Bowl. The Holy Man attempts to guide them to their good, while an unseen, ominous force plots their ruin.

Will Light or Darkness claim their souls?

“The collision of commerce and spirit, the world’s richest man and an ancient Native American shaman, a global corporation larger than any other and the quiet strength at the core of the natural world — this is thriller and metaphor and life lesson in the hands of a writer who has journey’d through both worlds.”
Gerald DiPego, screenwriter–Phenomenon

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE coverStepping Off the Edge. Winner of Five National Awards. Click here to buy.

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Sandy Nathan Sandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

My husband’s most beloved reading material is The Washington Post National Weekly Edition. (We’re too far out in the country to get the daily.) An article in the April 30-May 6, 2007 edition caught Barry’s eye: “Father of Russian Democracy” by Lee Hockstader. The article commemorated Boris Yeltsin’s life and described his rise to power in Russia. That was interesting and historical enough, but one paragraph grabbed my husband’s attention.

The author noted that in 1965, Yeltsin became the director of a large factory that manufactured prefabricated houses. In any other household, that might have been a barely noted bit of trivia.

Not in our house––my parents, Andy & Clara Oddstad, owned Oddstad Homes, which was the largest residential home builder in Northern California in its heyday in the early to mid 1960s. It hit a peak as the 10th largest residential builder in the United States. The company dropped from the public eye when its assets were sold following my father’s death in 1964.

ANDY & CLARA ODDSTADAndy & Clara Oddstad, founders of Oddstad Homes, in the 1950s

The sentence in the Washington Post rung a bell, because my husband knew a bit of my family’s lore.

Oddstad Homes sold a house to the Russians in 1955. People who have matured in the post-Cold War period do not GET what that means. 1955 was the height of the Cold War. Everyone thought of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. (Oh, yeah, maybe a few ultra-liberals thought that the USSR might not quite be the home of Satan, but very few. Even my father, an ultra-liberal from a notoriously liberal Scandinavian background, hated Russia.)

What were the Russians doing, house shopping in the United States in 1955?

That’s what I wanted to know. I just remember the overall rumblings of the event, being ten years old when it happened. The Washington Post article motivated me to call my aunt Elma, who was there when the action went down in 1955. She was also a “grown up” and remembered the whole story very well. (I’m putting up a few family photos from the period for atmosphere. I’m going to look for pictures from the construction jobs and will post them when I find them.)

How and why did the Russians buy a house from a developer in Northern California? Think People to People. The Eisenhower administration instituted a People to People program in which Russian trade representatives could come here to study our industries. The idea was to trade knowledge and build fellowship. (My aunt did not know if the United States sent trade emissaries to Russia in exchange . . .)

The Russian delegation came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1955 as part of a nationwide survey of building techniques in residential housing. Oddstad Homes was one of the builders they visited.

“Well, what most developers across the country had shown them was a Parade of Model homes,” my aunt Elma reported. “All finished, decorated and pretty. That isn’t what they wanted. They had real construction problems and wanted to know how to solve them.”

“Kosygin was the head of the Russian delegation,” my aunt reported. Kosygin. Name sounded familiar.

Googling the name left me breathless: Alexey Kosygin, Premier of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1980? That Kosygin? Krushchev’s buddy? Might have been. Click here to go to the Wikipedia article on Kosygin.

After a rising career in the Communist Party, during which he headed various Committees with responsibility for consumer affairs, Alexey Kosygin became a full member of the Poliburo in 1948 and a minister for light industry until 1953.

Following Stalin’s death in 1953, Kosygin was demoted. His star dipped a bit until his buddy Nikita K. springboarded him back among the movers and shakers of the USSR. But that took a while.

It’s entirely possible that Alexey Kosygin was the Kosygin who found himself leading a trade delegation to look at housing production in the United States in 1955.

A better researcher than I will have to figure that out.

At any rate, they visited the Oddstad Homes tract of Rollingwood in the hills of Burlingame CA. That’s where the building was happening at the time. It wasn’t to be an ordinary visit. For one thing, my father was a working man, once a card carrying member of the AFL-CIO Carpenters’ Union who worked his way through college as a carpenter. He had little patience for show and tell and finished products. He liked workers and action.

ANDY ODDSTAD Andy Oddstad water skiing in the San Francisco Bay back when it wasn’t too polluted. He was a wrestler, football player and frog man in WWII.

When the Russians hit Rollingwood, Oddstad was ready. It was one of those confluence things that they love in the Human Potential Movement: Our painting contractor, Boris Bogart, was from Russia. He spoke the language and was able to establish contact with the delegation in a deeper way than they’d known with other builders. He found out what they wanted––they had all our literature about home construction, but didn’t know how to apply the techniques.

For instance, how did they hide the seams in the newly invented wonder product, sheetrock? (Which is also known as plaster board and wall board and replaced the time consuming lathe and plaster as wall treatments.) They knew about sheetrock mud and tape, but how did you use them? They had publications and the tools and mud, but they couldn’t figure out the technique. The Russians wanted to see how sheetrocking was done.

So Boris took them out to where the men were working and they got hands on instruction on taping sheetrock, something that would be revolutionary and life enhancing to many in Russia.

Hardwood floors were another big growth step. At that time, hardwood floors were usually laid by a man on his hands and knees, pounding one nail at a time. Oddstad Homes was using the new pneumatic guns. A guy could walk along and shoot the nails into the floor, not even needing to bend down. (He did have to be careful where he put his feet.)

Everybody ended up out on the rough and ready jobs. My dad couldn’t stay away from them. He was an engineer by education, a carpenter by trade. Throughout his career, my father used his engineering skills for innovations in the construction of residential housing.

At that time, he had perfected prefabricated roof joists. You see them all the time now, being hauled down the freeway on trucks, stuck up on rough-framed houses in a day or less: These are the triangular wooden pieces that they put on top of walls to quickly and easily get a roof on a house. They have the advantage of being faster and easier to build (on the ground or in a factory, these days) and being safer for the workers. The guys don’t have to get up on the roof and build each roof joist by joist, risking falling.

My dad had been working on perfecting them; Oddstad Homes used them routinely. The Russians were amazed by the innovation.

ANDY ODDSTAD & TRIFF TRIFELETTIAndy Oddstad & Triff Trifeletti. Triff was my dad’s “dirt man.” He handled the grading, the roads, the heavy, dirty stuff. They were dear friends, as this informal shot “en wet suit” shows.

The Russians were simply enthralled, proclaiming Rollingwood the best housing value in the United States.

My dad had a different interpretation. He told me, “They liked my houses because the men were working when they visited the jobs. They wanted that––but my men worked hard because I paid them decent wages!” He never did like Communist plan much.

The excursion ended with Kosygin standing in a finished home, looking around in awe. “This is a home that a commissar would have in Russia!” he said. It was a typical Rollingwood house intended for a middle class family.

“How much would it be to ship this house to Russia?” Kosygin asked my father.

My dad was speechless, but managed to make a “horseback estimate.” My aunt told me the term came from “the old days when the surveyors used to ride around on horseback, estimating plots as they rode. It was very rough.” My dad tossed a figure at Kosygin.

“I’ll take it,” Kosygin said.

No one was more surprised than my father.

The Russians left and the delegation went back to the USSR.

At Oddstad Homes, they thought that was the end of it.

But the news media had gotten a hold of the story––it was such a kick. It ran nationwide on the AP & the UP. A reporter named Bob Considine was quite taken with the tale and wrote about it a few times, to national headlines.

In those days, shipping to the USSR required a permit and tons of paperwork. Amtorg was the Russian organization that issued permits. We heard nothing from them about the house.

Six months passed, and everyone at Oddstad Homes thought the deal was dead. Just a fluke from an mind-blowing day on the job.

But Bob Considine wrote one more article, asking, “Where is that house?” It ran nationwide.
Two days later, Amtorg coughed up the permits. The Russians didn’t want to lose face in the light of the publicity.

Oddstad Homes prefabricated the house in five enormous sections and packed it for shipping. They’d have to construct a foundation on the other end, then put the house on it the way prefab houses are built today.

The story stirred feelings all over. The people who had bought homes in Rollingwood wanted to do something for their long distance neighbors. They sent housewarming gifts. Gifts from everyone in the subdivision were shipped with the house. The Rollingwood residents sent items that any new homeowner would want for his or her new house. The flood of gifts and giving was unprecedented for the Cold War. (My aunt noted that someone took inventory of the gifts. Seventy five percent of them did not originate in the United States, even back then.)

What happened to the house?

No one knows. “We never heard anything from it.” my aunt Elma said. “It’s a mystery.”

And a strange moment when human beings touched each other and exchanged ideas and skills––and a whole house.

I would love to know what happened to that house. And was that the Alexey Kosygin? Did he have to pay for a very large impulse buy made on a trip to the infamous West? Did Yeltsin have anything to do with it?

Where is that house?

Sandy Nathan
Copyright 2007, all rights reserved.
ODDSTAD FAMILY 1950sThe Oddstad family in 1955.

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Sandy NathanSANDY NATHAN, National Award Winning Author

If you Google the name Bill Miller, you will get web links to a large number of very interesting folk, most of whom are not the person I’m writing about.

It’s not that I don’t like Bill Miller the Hooked on Fishing Guy. I’m sure that I’d like him fine if we ever met, but I’m not hooked on fishing. If you are, you can see him on his Brighthouse Networks TV show. Or check out his web site for the latest in angling knowledge, pictures of his catch, and tips on how to improve your own angling.

No, I’m not talking about that Bill Miller the Texas BAR-B-Q Guy, either. For years, this Bill Miller held the www.billmiller.com web address. He probably changed it when he got sick of requests for Bill the Native American musician’s songs.

I can see it now––Bill picks up the phone in his Hill Country restaurant: “No, I can’t sing Reservation Road, but I can get you a nice plate of tri-tip and beans . . .” Check out that BAR-B-Q web site, it’s inspiring. Makes me want to go to Texas and eat ribs.

Nor do I wish to write about Bill Miller the Money Dude. That Bill Miller is the portfolio manager for the lotsa-billions Legg Mason Value Trust. On the other hand, as a former economist, anybody who beats the market as often as this Bill does makes my heart flutter. Oh, baby. Check out this article from Newsweek that talks about why Bill Miller was named one of the best fund money managers of 2006: Bill’s Incredible Performance. You go, guy! Tackle the National Debt! We need money managers like you!

BILL MILLER AT THE GATHERINGThe correct Bill Miller. This links to his web site.

Nope, I’m not writing about any of them. This BLOG POST is about BILL MILLER, THE GRAMMY-WINNING, MOHICAN/GERMAN, MAJOR MUSICIAN, AND REALLY GREAT ARTIST. NOT TO MENTION INSPIRING SPEAKER AND SPIRITUAL LEADER. THAT Bill Miller. His web address is: http://www.billmiller.net You can also pick up his latest news, slide shows, about fifty videos on his MySpace space:


BILL WAILS!Bill Miller singing at the Gathering, a Native American spiritual retreat. Bill is spiritual leader of the Gathering.

I think that Bill might have greater name recognition if his were a recognizable Native American name, such as Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull. (I’m not being disrespectful to those great American Indian heroes. They are my heroes, too. I just wanted to illustrate my point with names that everyone would agree were authentic.)

Okay, if Bill had a traditional Indian name, he might have more name recognition. Folks would probably not get him mixed up with the Money or Bar-B-Q Guys. (I wonder if he gets requests for tri-tip sandwiches or hot stocks on his web site? Let me know, Bill.)

BILL WITH HIS PAINTINGS Bill playing at the Gathering retreat again. The paintings behind him are his art.

I am a great fan of Bill Miller the Musician, Songwriter, Artist and Speaker. I have been his fan since first hearing his music on the sound system of a Western store in Solvang, California. This was back around 1997. I bought the CD, The Red Road. It reduced me to a blubbering slab of emotions when I listened to it. (I did this at home, fortunately.) I instantly became Bill’s fan, wrote him a huge letter (which never again was seen after I tossed it in mail box), and have idolized him since.

(This is saying a lot, because in my culture, we do not show strong emotions. We are sophisticated, which means we lie about our feelings in the service of appearing calm and fearless. Maybe superior. I was born and raised in the heart of Silicon Valley before it became a jungle of tilt-up concrete buildings, money, and both broken and fulfilled dreams.)

BILL WITH LINDA AND JENNYBill with Linda & Jenny at the Gathering. Another reason to attend: This could be a picture of you.

Anyway, Bill knocked me over. Still does. If you are a Bill Miller fan, you will find lots of Bill lore, and a Bill Miller interview in my award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge.

This is a brazen sales pitch for my book, yes. But Bill and the Gathering, the retreat he leads every September in Tennessee, have impacted my soul, my life, my heart. So I wrote about them in my book. Actually, if you look on almost any page of my massive family of web sites, including LITTLE INDIA: A Bit of India in Southern California, you will find some mention of Bill Miller.

This link should take you to me being interview on Amazing Authors. I talk about Bill and the Gathering there, too.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE coverStepping Off the Edge: My book’s title describes how I feel when I get in one of these silly moods. In freefall and hoping I don’t hit bottom too hard. Anyway, you will notice that Bill Miller’s portrait is on the cover of my book. The book has lots about Bill and many other people in it, but mostly it’s about me crashing through a few years of my life, managing to illustrate everything they taught me when I was studying counseling. It will make you laugh and cry, even just looking at the illustrations.


It’s been a long time since I wrote anything about Bill for the Net. I googled Bill Miller, and discovered that my own huge fan website about him DIDN’T SHOW UP ANYWHERE. It used to be on the first page, right near Bill’s own site and the BAR-B-Q Guy’s. Gone! It was gone from the rankings!

My site had become a web non-entity, at least in the world of Bills.

Those of you with optimized web sites where you paid a fortune so that your site lands on top will empathize, right? You know what page standing means.

My situation is worse––I’m a scrappy grandmother: I do most of my web stuff myself.

Do you realize that the neurons in my brain that pulled that Bill Miller website together the first time and got it on the Net so many years ago are GONE? KAPUT. Yes, aging does that.

So what I put up ten years ago, I don’t know how to put up again.

Oy vey, as my mother-in-law used to say. Oy very, I say.

COKER CREEK COVERED BRIDGEThe covered bridge at Coker Creek, site of the Gathering. Sometimes, moving forward in life is as simple as stepping over the brige. (That sounds like a good book title . . .)

Given the fact that my site had disappeared off the charts, I wanted to do something, something drastic, to call attention to may flagging “hittage.” What? What could I do to raise myself within the Miller world?

This BLOG POST is it. Supposedly, spiders or robots or maybe even aliens continuously search the Net looking for new content. Hopefully, this qualifies as content. It’s a little thin for my typical work––though I am having a wonderful time writing it.

If you find this blog, you should look at my really big page on Bill Miller and life around him. Check out http://www.billmilleronspurs.com I’ll make sure something’s up there. Somehow . . .

And there’s another article about Bill, too. BILL MILLER: HALLOWEEN II. You will not believe this article. It’s about seeing Bill in a concert at Santa Barbara, CA, only forty minutes and over a mountain from where I live. The writing in this article is fun and profound, but the pictures are KILLER!

No where will you see pictures like this. This article is mostly illustrated with photos one of my friends took at a Peruvian Paso horse show. She photographed a costume class. Ever seen a horse and rider dressed as an elephant? Read Bill II and you will. My friend has an MFA (Master’s in Fine Art) in photography, so not only are her photos unbelievable in content, the horses and riders are in the middle of the picture.
Sandy Nathan & Bill Miller at the Gathering Book SigningBill and I signing books and posters at the Gathering.

Maybe you’ve already seen these articles, and that’s why I don’t exist Google-wise––you’ve moved on, as Stephen King says. (I’m fan of his, too. Check out is web site.)

But, hey––I’ve been busy. I’ve published two books in the last couple years. Writing is hard work. I can’t update, update, update. Read the articles about Bill again. Look at the pictures. Look through all the years of THE GATHERING’S WEB SITE. So many pictures you’ll get bleary eyed. Of Bill and everyone. Go to the Gathering. It’s life changing.

COKER CREEK MAIN LODGEThe main hall at Coker Creek, site of the Gathering.

Go see Bill, too. He’s an over the top performer. Check out MySpace/Bill Miller Official for his schedule. Write him message. We all like getting messages. Buy his CDs. His paintings. Do that.

Meanwhile, I’ve had some fun while not writing about Bill on the Net. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, has won five national awards. It was a finalist for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award, a Bronze Medal Winner in the 2007 Ippys, and a finalist in three categories of the 2007 Indie Excellence Awards. (These contests are so big, if you’re a finalist you can call yourself a winner. Like the Academy Awards nominees get to flash it.)

I’m a grateful woman. All the work paid off.

NUMENONNot only that, my novel, Numenon, which won’t be out until later this year, won the 2007 Indie Excellence Award in Religious Fiction as a galley. I hope to give Dan Brown a run for his money with my Bloodsong Series. Numenon is the first book in that series. I hope you’ll take the time to look at my web site, read about me and my work. If you’re so moved, I’d love it if you reserved a copy of Numenon and even bought Stepping Off the Edge.

Thank you my readers, for your support and patience. Yes, I get a little silly sometimes. A lot silly, actually. But I appreciate you.

All the best,

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan

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Sandy NathanWhy is this woman smiling? Do the exercise below and find out. I’m working on this article bit by bit, posting what I’ve got, then editing, changing and adding. It’s rough and will get smoother.

Okay. Take out your journals, writers. Yes, this is a working blog. To get the most out of it, you must do the work. Just like improving your writing and staying sane require work.

The first step to sanity is this:


Write the above sentence in your journal 100 times. (1000 times is better if you’re serious about preserving your sanity.)

While you write “WRITING IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE,” I want you to get, take in, IMBIBE the fact that writing is not the most important thing in life. It’s not.

Now I want you to do something else:

PSYCHOSYNTHESIS.COVER.jpgBuy this book: Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings by Dr. Roberto Assagioli. Assagioli was an Italian psychiatrist, a contemporary of Freud’s, who broke the Freud over the structure of the mind, the existence of higher levels of the psyche and much more. Understanding Psychosynthesis is absolutely necessary if you want to be a writer and stay sane. (When I was getting my M.A. in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, I read the 1975 edition, Psychosynthesis.)

Both of these books are out of print and somewhat expensive. They are graduate level text books, and as such not fun reads, but as I say: If you want to be sane and be a writer, you’re going to have to work in many fields. The books I recommended hold the keys to understanding the structure of your mind and personality. Knowing about these will allow you to write without going crazy.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money or read hard stuff like Assagioli’s books, you can buy my book, Stepping Off the Edge, which covers Assagioli’s main ideas and is fun to read. It also has pictures . . . Read Chapter 6 first, which starts on page 77. This chapter explains the parts of Assogioli’s theries that really matter to you as a writer, like who you really are and how subpersonalities take control.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE coverStepping Off the Edge. Winner of five national awards to date. Buy it here! It’s linked to Amazon. You can get it for peanuts. I make 1/47th of a cent for each copy you buy on Amazon, but hey, the idea is you should read it.

My Chapter 6 explains what subpersonalities are and how they take over your identity. The other chapters flesh out the concepts.

Unless you’ve done MAJOR personal work, your dominant subpersonality is reading this thinking that it is all of you. It’s resisting reading more because it thinks I’m crazy. How can this possibly improve my writing, sez that insistent inner voice.

You need to realize that your Writing Self is not you. It’s not you, even if you’ve got forty published books and write eight hours a day. If you’re an aspiring author, the it’s not the you that hopes to do your version of Stephen King or Shakespeare (whichever) one day, either.

You are not the persona you act out at writing group or the writing conference. You are not the folks you idolize either––the people who lead the conference:

  • The puffed up egomaniac with the literary mannerisms who has devoted his/her (who can tell?) life to attaining the heights of language.
  • The thrilling cult writer you’d love to be.
  • You are not the truly great writer who moves people to tears with a single line and can be anything from totally weird to a recluse to a flat out wild man/woman who handles hangovers very well.
  • And they aren’t who they think they are, either.

Treegod by Zoe NathanWhy are we doing this? Always a good question: What’s it all about?

Those are important questions and ones you should contemplate as a writer or simply someone who wants to get through life in one piece.

Remember how you felt before you wrote WRITING IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE a thousand times?

You felt like WRITING WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE. You were doing this dumb exercise because it might help your WRITING. It was different that the writing exercises you did in your group and something new to think about. It might work.

Usually, you spend your time:

  • Agonizing over what your writing group members would say about the latest revision of chapter 1.13 of your novel, the chapter you’ve been reading to them since September, 1999.
  • Wondering when your agent will return the phone call you made three years ago.
  • Hoping to God that you’d get an agent one day.
  • Wondering if the slightly baggy, but not too, drape of your tweed jacket expresses your urban sensibility sufficiently. Or should you look harder edged?

Somewhere in the process of writing WRITING IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE, after your mind tossed out every objection you could POSSIBLY have to believing WRITING IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE, I hope you realized it isn’t, and maybe you’d better think about what is.

You don’t want to give up writing, but you want to do it in a way that serves the rest of your life. And you want to stop licking the boots of your writing group leader, or those who have appointed themselves better writers than you. You want control of your inner state and your life.

You are not who you think you are. Your body, mind and soul are being run by imposters.

That’s why I suggested that you read Assagioli, who explains this in crystalline detail.

Since you didn’t read Assagioli, I’ll paraphrase what he says. As we humans develop, we naturally are better at some things than others. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know this. They turn out differently, even when they’re from the same family. Even if they’re full sisters with highly similar genetic structures and high aptitude in the same things, they’re different.

Two examples:

Lily NathanLily Nathan, artist, writer, exquisite creature.

zoeblue.jpgZoe Nathan, artist, web designer, exquisite creature.

Zoe and Lily Nathan are sisters, my daughters. They are both really smart, creative and artistic. Clic above to look at their web sites. Even though they’re artist, you can see how different their work is. Their personalities are different, too. They popped into the world and manifested different personalities and world views from the start. This is genetic, part of their essences, and something else . . .

Subpersonalities develop early in life. They develop around what you did really well when you were little––a todler. I could see the differences in my daughters when they were babies.

How do they develop? It’s based on what got you the goodies from whomever raised you: Praise, love, esteme. Your subpersonalities developed like this:

“Oh, look at Candy. She learned to write so fast. . . . And she’s so smart. She’ll go to a really good college and make something of herself. She’ll change the world.” Forty years later, Candy’s chainsmoking and hoping to write the Great American Novel.

Or take Pete. “Wow, that kid can run.” Off to the Olympics. “And he’s the toughest kid in school. Watch him smack that smart-ass Candy’s mouth.” A career in business, many of the professions, the Mafia, or military. Or the cops.

Unless you’re very sharp, you can’t tell that your soul is being run by an imposter. A subpersonality.

What is a subpersonality, exactly? It’s a role. A hunk of electromagnetic energy in your brain that thinks it’s the Big Kahuna. You. Your higher Self. Your true identity.

We all have tons of subpersonalities to help us get through the day. They are normal parts of our functioning. You know how to act at work, right? And how to behave at your mother in law’s? And what to say at your writing group? How to behave at a job interview?

We know how to handle these tasks. Can you imagine what life would be like if you had to rethink how you were supposed to behave as you walked through the maze of your day? You’d never get past getting up in the morning. So we have . . .

Subpersonalities. They’re all programed in by the time you’re an adult. The sketch of who you are is there by age five. The rest is fill-in.

The problem with being possessed by a subpersonality is that its world view becomes your world view. You won’t achieve true greatness if a smaller version of you runs the show.

Think about the greatest person you know. Pick any of them: Mother Theresa, Ghandhi. George Bush . . . Are we awake?

Write down the qualities they’ve got that make you say they’re great. Courage. Integrity. Devotion to goodness. Manifesting goodness.

Now pick the writers you think are greatest and do the exercise for them . . .

Okay, a lot of writers are alcoholics and maniacs. I’ve noticed that, too. Check out my Writers’ Corner. The link takes you to my original writing on writing. It’s about psychopathology and the arts. A heady investigation and one of the most popular on my family of web sites.

While you’re reading the Writers’ Corner, I’m going to make dinner. Will pick this up later.

Homework: You can write WRITING IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE a few thousand more times. Notice the voice that says, “This is stupid. Why is she having us do this? My dream is to be a great writer. Writing is the most important thing in my life. I am COMMITTED! DEDICATED. I WRITE EVERY DAY. She’s subversive. I think I’m going to throw up,” as you write. That’s your writer subpersonality. It thinks that writing is the most important thing in the world and will fight any attempt to contradict that belief to the death.

That’s what we’re dealing with: a life and death struggle for control of your destiny and happiness.

Sandy NathanSandy Nathan
I can tell you this because I’ve done the work to put the Real Me in charge of my life. When I enter the writing world and see people WORSHIPING success as writers, I FEEL NAUSEOUS. That ain’t what it’s about. My credentials for writing this article are the fact that I’ve found who I am and taken control from my subpersonalities. I also have of an advanced degree in psychology and lots of practice coaching negotiation and doing sanity-related things like meditation. My two books have won six national awards so far––I’m both in a position to evaluate the literary world around me and a writer/author.

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The Gathering retreat inspired Sandy Nathan's award winning book, Stepping Off the Edge. Stepping has extreme relevance for this article.

Okay––here’s the situation. We’ve all experienced something like it: You haven’t spoken to Shelly recently. Actually, your “speaking” is done by email these days––you live on opposite ends of the continent.

But you were very good friends years ago and have gotten close again through emails. You feel like you’re sisters . . . Her emails have slowed down in the last six months; you figure she’s busy. Or something.

And then you get an email from her about something you wrote six months ago. You were feeling scared about something, and told her all about it. It didn’t seem like a big deal, and you were sisters, after all.

Your words have festered in her brain for six months. She’s been silently building a case against you. And not about your behavior––about you. She’d used your not-well-thought-out words as evidence proving you’re pond scum. All these months, she’s been judging your personal worth and frying you in a metaphysical trial that you knew nothing about.

You write back, explaining what you meant, the circumstances, how you’re irrationally fearful about somethings and why. You say you’re sorry, if this happens again, tell you sooner so you can work on it.

What comes back is a “well, so what”––and a stronger, more black and white indictment of your character. You’re bad. You’re wrong, you’re no good in a very fundamental way. She doesn’t respect you or what you did/are.

You write back, defending yourself, your temper up this time.

The answer is still another black and white statement about your personal worth. You feel like she wants you to say––and will only stop the barrage––when you say, “Yeah, you’re right; I’m bad.”

And then she demands all the gifts she’s given you over the years back, things that meant a lot to both of you once.

So you say to yourself, “Do I want a friend like this? Is this a friend?” And terminate the relationship.

Or, you give in and say, “Shelly, you’re right. I did a bad thing. I am a bad person.” And then try to negotiate a relationship and peace with this difficult person . . . until you finally realize it can’t be done.

Whichever way you handle it, you’re hurt. (Please change the “Shelly and emails” story to fit your experience with Shelly-type people.)

Some personal development-type folks say, “Another person can’t hurt you. Your feelings are your own. You ALLOW the other person to hurt you. Change your thoughts, attitudes, and reactions, and the pain will go away.”

I SAY: HOOEY! BALONEY! The above may be true for a meditation master at the height of his or her powers. But a civilian? Yeah, right.

I’ve done more psychological/spiritual/metaphysical work on myself than almost anybody I know. A betrayal hurts.

What you can do about the pain is limit how much and how long you hurt.


Communion, by Lily Nathan. Isn't it nice when life is like this?

The sudden end of a friendship hurts. This is what I have done to handle it:

1. I ASK MYSELF: Do I want this person as a friend regardless of what happened? Because we almost always make amends and give it another try. It may take a while, but most of the time, we can pick a relationship up and try again. (Unless the other person stonewalls and refuses to respond to your calls, letters, emails, etc. This is even more painful and a nasty, crazy-making way of dealing with other people and a big reason for asking: Do I want this person for my friend?)

2. PRINT OUT THE EMAILS AND SEE WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED AND WHO SAID WHAT. One of the miracles of the electronic age is that we can print out emails and evaluate our words out of the heat of passion. (Another miracle of the electronic age is that our emails can find themselves plastered all over the Net, including blogs, MySpace, you name it. I have friends who write one line emails. Anything with any content that could come back and bite them is communicated via phone or face to face. Old fashioned, but safe.)

But, having a transcript can change things. You may find that you got as nasty as Shelly did, and just as fast. Maybe it wasn’t all her fault. Or, you may see how much you tried to make things right, how you apologized and explained. And how it didn’t matter to her.

In that case, Do you want Shelly as a friend? The facts should help soothe the pain.

3. REVIEW THE HISTORY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND SHELLY’S LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT. You were buddies years ago. Why did that end? Did she do some arbitrary and judgmental thing before? Hurt you? Betray you? Write it down. (You’ll need a journal to get the most from my blog, readers.) Why did the friendship end before? How is that similar to now?

And how’s Shelly doing in her life? She’s told you in her emails; really look at it what she’s said, outside the forgiving glaze of friendship. Has her life been a succession of failed marriages, relationships that don’t last, unfinished goals, and job problems? Does she describe her bosses and the people who run her company as jerks? Did she just get demoted, or fired, but it wasn’t her fault? If this has been going since you knew each other years ago, your ears should prick up. Notice these patterns.

Which is not to say dump friends if they’re having a run of bad luck. Everybody, EVERYBODY, can have bad years, and successions of bad years. We all can have loved ones leave us or die. Our employers can go broke so that we end up jobless. We can get fired, downsized or dumped. We can have horrible accidents. (The self-help people say these are really opportunities for great spiritual growth, if used properly. They are opportunities for character development, but that doesn’t make them fun.)

When a run of bad luck goes on for most of a lifetime, it’s a problem that needs attention. Is Shelly like that? If our lives are long term disasters and or most of our friend’s lives are the same, we need to look at that, too. Along with our own life histories.

The Secret is a popular book & and DVD talking about the Law of Attraction. Which basically means, you attract that which is like you.

Or: Your life is your mind on a big screen.

Simplistic, but true. Everything in our lives reflects our state of mind/psyche. Upgrade your state of mind, and you’ll upgrade your experience.

One way to do that is eliminate the negative. Sayonara, Shelly-baby.

4. STILL HURTS, DOESN’T IT? Because you didn’t see it coming and thought you were friends. You wish it didn’t happen. Review steps 1. to 3. above. Do you want this person for a friend? You can go back and plead for mercy.

5. WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FILL THE HOLE IN YOUR LIFE POST-SHELLY? Do you have other friends who can give you what Shelly did without the possible betrayal? Spend time with them.

And what did you write about in your emails with Shelly, anyway? Gossip? Talk about your spouse, boss, family? What’s wrong with the world?

If you don’t change the parts of your mind that attracted a person like Shelly, you will quickly fill the Shelly-void with other Shellys. They may look different, but their effect on you will be the same.

Get busy. Start a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. Exercise. Join a gym. If you’re online too much, try the REAL WORLD! It’s so exciting.

Work on your life goals. Don’t have any?

6. FIND YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO ACHIEVE IT. THEN DO IT, STEP BY STEP. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, acts like a depth charge in getting your inner MOJO going so you discover your life’s purpose and start working toward it. It blasts through the crust of cynicism, laziness and fear that coats daily life.

If you can’t get yourself going to find your highest goals, you could read Stepping, or get cancer or something to motivate yourself. (But why? I already did––it helped a lot in giving birth to Stepping Off the Edge.)

When you’re living your life’s purpose, whatever the Shellys of the world do to you will hurt less. Guaranteed.

7. GO TO A THERAPIST OR PROFESSIONAL HEALER. The Shelly situation is still going to hurt, even if you do all this. Sorry, but I hope you’re down to the little dregs of pain at the bottom of the carafe by now.

If you’re not, and you’re still hurting like crazy after going through all these steps, this may point to a deep seated pattern or abuse in the past. Go to a licensed psychotherapist with your pain. I’m big on professional help. If the Universe intended us to handle all our problems alone, the Universe would have created just one person. There’s lots of us humans–-we need to rely on each other.

You can talk to your friends or spouse about what happened––but, remember, Shelly was a friend. She might have even been a therapist or member of the healing professions herself. (A license to practice isn’t a certificate of mental health––though it does have professional standards behind it.)

And here’s a true story about telling your problems to friends: Back in the 1980s, my husband and I were best friends with another couple. They were so fun and lively, and they had little kids the ages of ours. Our two families did something together almost every weekend; we spent holidays and birthdays together. We talked about everything; after all, we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, birthplace of est and the human potential movement. Talking about feelings was good, telling the truth was wonderful.

Okay, life being as it is, problems arose. Our business was going belly up, slowly, then fast, then slowly again as we slaved to resuscitate it. Our business could have been an episode on ER, if dramas carried out in financial data were fun. And there were other problems on our side. We were really down, my husband and I.

Of course, we told our dear friends about it; they loved us, yes? We saw them all the time.

Except that stopped abruptly: They dumped us. Didn’t call, didn’t return our calls. We had no idea why. No explanation, no recourse. You think that hurt?

Only twenty five years later did I have the enormous insight that maybe we weren’t fun any more, in our truth-telling. Maybe the other couple would rather spend their time off with people who were enjoying life and didn’t remind them of how grim it can be.

We’ll never know––that friendship is kaput. Gone. There was no post-game feedback session. But the episode left me with a healthy respect for the limits of friendship. Some relationships are built on unspoken rules: We hang out together as long as we’re having fun. We don’t care about your troubles.

The other thing about telling your problems to your friends is they aren’t trained psychotherapists. I learned a lot getting my MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling. I learned a lot in the supervised hours of counseling I did in pursuit of my license. And I ended up having two kids instead of getting licensed to practice––but I learned how important all those hours of supervision the state requires for a license are.

Your friends can’t do what a therapist can; they’re not skilled enough. And the nature of friendship precludes saying some of the stuff your therapist may need to say to you, and you to her/him.

So, if you’ve tried all the self-help routes to get over the pain of betrayal, take your anguish to a professional therapist and work on it. You’ve got to go to a good therapist.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’VE GOT A GOOD THERAPIST? This is a very good question. A friend who is an excellent therapist answered it. She said:

“If you’ve been in therapy for two or three months and can’t see a distinct improvement in whatever got you there, change therapists.”

You’ll get better with a good therapist. With a bad one, you may get better––or worse. Or stay the same. You want to get better, yes?

A good therapist has a productive balance of empathy––”Oh, poor baby . . . “––and truth telling––”So that was the seventh time you’ve gotten in a relationship with someone who treated you like slime. Can you see a pattern? What’s in it for you that you keep doing this?” Not much fun, but better than ending up married to Shelly.

8. THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION: This is the technique I used to heal the searing pain of my kids abandoning me by growing up and leaving home. It still works, years later:

Your dog will always love you. Your dog will NEVER leave you. Or send mean emails.

Sandy Nathan’s Dogs

Get dogs! Your dog will never leave you. They’ll never conduct an email campaign to destroy your sense of self, either. You can have many joyful sessions teaching them to behave exactly as you want. They will love you unconditionally, just like all the books say your friends are supposed to, and Shelly said she did. You can write about them, photograph them, and sit with them at night. I’ve got a book inside that I need to write about my little rescue dogs and what they did for me. The link above takes you to what I’ve got written so far. (Note that dogs can be rough on the landscaping and your cat. You may have to do some cat/dog relationship reconciliation.)




Emerson and Linda at the Gathering's Pow-wow. You can always find more interesting friends!

These are great friends of mine. Jenny and Emerson are at the Gathering in Tennessee. This is the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired my book Stepping Off the Edge, winner of six national awards so far. See, go to the Gathering. You’ll forget about Shelly! Maybe you’ll write a book . . .









Jamis MacNiven's Terribly Funny/Touching Book

Read funny books, and see funny movies! This is my friend, Jamis MacNiven’s book, Breakfast at Buck’s. Buck’s Restaurant is the zanny, whacko, and very good restaurant in the heart of Woodside, CA, which is the wooded, upscale, residential heart of Silicon Valley. If you’ve been to Buck’s for breakfast, you will know how the book got its title. The CEOs and big-wigs of the hi-tech companies eat oatmeal there between 7 and 9 AM. Deals go down. You could fry eggs on the intellectual/emotional intensity. It’s a trip. So, go to Woodside and Buck’s Restaurant and have a good time. Or read Jamis’ book.

You can also watch his son TYLER’S movie about walking the length of Japan in an attempt to find his father’s birthplace. Tyler had a small sketch of rock formations made by his grandmother while she was there (with his grandfather) as a missionary in the 1940s. Notice that this hysterically funny, warm and very interesting movie comes to you on the same computer that carried Shelly’s horrific messages.

And go to Scott Kalechstein Grace’s website. He’s so funny, you’ll fall over laughing. If you get on his mailing list, he’ll send you songs he wrote just for YOU!

Where you look is what you see.



This Lightning-blasted Tree Reminds Me of God's Power. It's even better when you see the picture full sized! Or the tree!

THE GOD TREE. This photo was taken by my daughter, Zoe, when she drove across the country with her cousin. This is an actual tree which captures the immensity of life and how dead we can look if hit by lightning repeatedly. It carries a message:

Even the big stuff is small stuff, eventually.

Don’t worry about Shelly. She’s already being handled.









Sandy Nathan, award winning author. I'm 46 years old here. No nips, no tucks, no fancy lenses. I write about shelf life.


Sandy Nathan, multi-award winning author of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice (This blog article is sort of like a sample of Stepping Off the Edge.) and Numenon. Sandy holds Master’s degrees in Marriage, Family & Child Counseling and Economics. Her books have won twelve national awards, in fields from self help to spirituality and religious fiction.

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I’m very excited to be on Rev. May Leilani Schmit’s program, THE UNIVERSAL SPIRITUAL CONNECTION. The show airs on BBS Late Nite. The link above gives you information about how to listen, call in, and so on.

A native Hawaiian, Rev. Leilani is dedicated to bridging the gap between all peoples and cultures of the world. She’s also clairvoyant, channels, and heals. Wow. She welcomes questions from listeners and has a terrific program featuring very interesting spiritually adept people from around the world.

I’ll be speaking on, “When Your Inner Voice Speaks, Do You Listen?” This is a major theme from my book, Stepping Off the Edge. Stepping has been working out, by the way. It’s won FIVE NATIONAL AWARDS so far. It’s a finalist in the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Awards in the New Age/Spirituality category, one of three books to make it that far. Haven’t found out if I won yet. You’ll hear my ecstatic screams from where you’re sitting if I did. This is big deal.
And it’s a Bronze Medal winner in Self Help in the IPPYs, the Independent Press contest. Another big one, more than 3,000 books entered. And it was a finalist in three categories in the 2007 National Indie Excellence competition. It was first runner up in New Age and Memoir, and a finalist in Spirituality.

The validation from my peers felt wonderful. Writing is a lonely, difficult job. Getting feedback like that felt wonderful!


And––while I’m bragging––my novel, Numenon, WON the 2007 National Indie Excellence competition in Religious Fiction. It was hot off the presses: The printer sent the Early Reading Copy to the contest as they were completed. They arrived that last day they could to be judged. Phew! That’s smokin’

Hope you listen to Rev. Leilani and I chat it up next Tuesday!


Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan

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Stepping Off the Edge by Sandy Nathan

The 2007 awards for competitions for the best books published by independent presses have been announced. Thousands of presses and books are entered in each competition. They’re so big, that being a finalist counts as a win, just like being nominated for an Academy Award is considered an award.

We at Vilasa Press are jumping for joy! Our two titles are cleaning up:

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice is the winner of SIX NATIONAL AWARDS!

Stepping Off the Edge won:

o Autobiography/Memoir (First Runner Up)
o New Age Non Fiction (First Runner Up)
o Spirituality

Stepping Off the Edge is Vilasa Press’ first title, and we’re pleased as punch! The work, fanatic attention to detail and insistence on excellence are paying off. Not to mention the literary skill of author, Sandy Nathan.


NUMENON will be officially released in early 2008, and it’s already a National Award Winner! Watch Amazon and this web site for the gala BOOK RELEASE CELEBRATION! Click on one of the Numenon links and take a peek at its web site. Find out why readers are going wild over this book.

If you’ve read Stepping Off the Edge and like it, we ask you to tell your friends about it.

If a look at the Stepping Off the Edge’s website and knowing it’s already won four National Awards makes you interested in buying it, you can through Sandy Nathan’s web site. You can also buy Stepping Off the Edge on Amazon or any of the big on-line book stores. And––you can order it at your local bookstore.

Best wishes,

Barry Nathan, publisher, Vilasa Press

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“What is Numenon?” you may ask. Why isn’t it spelled noumenon, the way the great philosopher Immanuel Kant intended when he wrote The Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic? Noumenon is a concept from philosophy meaning the thing-in-itself, inferred reality beyond the sensory world (phenomenon) to which we are limited. Who dares to use such an important word as a book title, when the book isn’t even about philosophy?

Sandy Nathan

I do. Sandy Nathan. And it is about philosophy. It’s about the quest for meaning and essence inherent in human existence. It’s wrapped up in corporate and Native American trappings is to make it palatable to people who wouldn’t read philosophy if their lives depended on it. This book is an exercise in philosophy.

And I have an almost-major in philosophy from the prestigious Santa Clara University for credentials. I love philosophy. Studying philosophy saved my life.

When my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was eighteen, philosophy got me through. At that time, SCU required everyone to minor in philosophy––which I think is sensible and getting more so every day. I kept on taking philosophy courses after getting my minor, because I NEEDED IT. I ended up two courses shy of a major. I would have taken those two courses, but my advisor, Dr. Mario Belotti, said, “Who will ever see it? It won’t show up on your diploma.” Economics already filled the spot where it said “major.” I didn’t bother.

Who would guess that a mere forty years later, I’d be writing novels about philosophical subjects? No one. But that’s how life is.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE cover Stepping Off the Edge, my first book, another philosophy blockbuster.

You asked about why it was spelled numenon. I didn’t change the name from Noumenon to Numenon lightly. (Or Nuomenon––check out Nuomenon.com, too.) It was because many other Noumenons existed and I didn’t want to get sued. Also, the domain name was taken, taken, taken. So many noumenons––there’s a rock album called Noumenon, a DJ, half a dozen corporations. Does this mean we’re all philosophers?

Well, yes. We are. Most of us don’t take it seriously until it’s too late. (“I knew I should have been a rock star instead of an accountant . . . ” “I should have made up with Uncle Henry. He stole my putter forty years ago . . .” Gasp, sputter. The end. Too late.) That’s how we tend to do it.

Not while I’m around, kiddies. Now’s the time to do the job! I’ve realized how old I am. Gasp, sputter. Not yet!

Communion by Lily Nathan

Communion by Lily Nathan. Let’s get real, folks. Now’s the only time to do it.

Why did I name my book Numenon, however spelled? Truth is, I really wanted dasein, Heidegger’s pure being. Pure being beyond the mind’s comprehension, beyond everything! Can you see the explosive cover for that book! WOWSIE!

Unfortunately, dasein is taken. Dasein Corp. is all over. Dasein Design, on and on. The corporate world has overtaken the philosophical world, in name at least.

Treegod by Zoe Nathan DASEIN!

I spent an un-fun day searching the Net for good corporate names early in the third or fourth rewrite of Numenon. I searched the Greek Pantheon, the Roman deities, Hindu, Vedantic, some Chinese gods, and sprites and others from world religious traditions. All taken. Also most philosophic concepts.

Taken! Taken! Mostly by software manufacturers. Since when did Shiva become a proprietary name? Millions of people worship Shiva all over the globe. What do they do when they’re praying, chant, “Om Namah (Proprietary Corporate Name)”?

So, dasein was taken. But I got lucky with nuomenon. It was available! I grabbed it as fast as I could log into my favorite purveyor of URLs. Grabbed it with joy.

Only later, as I tried to read parts of the book to my writing group did I realize that nuomeon was much harder to pronounce than I remembered when I was studying philosophy. Really hard: Nuu-o-me-non. A tongue twister. Something was wrong.

A little sloothing and I discovered that I had misspelled it on my initial search. Okay, the best of us make mistakes. When I finally looked up the correct spelling, I realized, “Oops.” I Googled noumenon and found the multitude of legal entities already claiming to be the noumenon.

How can a philosophical term be made into a proprietary name? “It can’t,” said my lawyer. “Use it.”

“Watch out you don’t get one of those corporate guys mad at you,” said my other lawyer.

I spelled it Numenon. Cowardice is prudent, if not a virtue. Plus, the domain name was available.

Now that we have discussed noumenon, nuomenon, numenon more than you’d ever want to unless you were a philosophy major, let’s talk about something else. My new book:


The world of Numenon is on the way. It’s book one of the Bloodsong Series––this is just the beginning. I’ve got eight books FINISHED in draft form. (Meaning: They won’t be too hard to rewrite.) We’ve got the Advance Reading Copies and are gearing up to send them out for reviews and testimonials. We’ll have some Pre-release Copies soon, available only through the sandynathan.com site. Check one of the multitudes of links above for more information and what readers are saying about Numenon.

I’m going to go chant my mantra now, “Om Namah (Proprietary Corporate Name).”


Sandy Nathan

Sandy. Do you like the color or black and white photo?

Sandy Nathan & Her Dogs Should I add dogs?

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WOW! IS THIS VIDEO GOOD! My daughter Zoe forwarded it to me yesterday. My husband, Barry, and I forgot about dinner as we watched it. It’s the story of Kintaro, meaning Golden Boy in Japanese, the nickname for a young American man who walks from one end of Japan to the other in search of his father’s birthplace. His only clue: a line drawing done by his grandmother somewhere near the birth site.

The film is very funny, as one would expect knowing this young man’s dad, and sweetly touching. A perfect balm to the soul.

Turns out we’ve known young Kintaro, aka Tyler MacNiven, since he was a wee lad. We lived in Woodside, California, his hometown. Our favorite restaurant was Buck’s of Woodside, owned and operated by Tyler’s family. Buck’s has got to be the funniest/funnest restaurant in the world. Click on the link and read and laugh until you drop over. Book fiends, read about Jamis’ book. Better, go to the restaurant and “Steal this Menu!” They’re that funny.

Jamis MacNiven's Terribly Funny/Touching Book

So, of course, Tyler’s film is funny.

Wow. I knew that kid when . . .

Speaking of which, my novel Numenon, Book I of the Bloodsong Series, is at the printers now. Well, we’re just doing Early Reading Copies to send to literati and reviewers for testimonials and reviews. They will be available to everyone soon! Faster if you clamor for them! Email me going, “Clamor! Clamor!”

You may think my novel and Kintaro Walks Japan a loose association, but it’s not. I have eight or so novels in the Bloodsong Series written as drafts. Starting in the third novel, a fantastic, zany restaurant in Woodside CA becomes the scene of HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT ACTION. Guess which restaurant? BUCK’S! Can you guess what happens? Not on your life. You’ll have to read the series to get to it.


But would I make you suffer until the third book comes out? Never! I’ve just written to Jamis MacNiven asking for permission to make Buck’s the Official Restaurant of the Bloodsong Series! Yes, I aim to create a web site for my series surpassing that of a famous teenage writer of vampire stories. Just to show that grandmother’s rock! If you click that link now, you’ll get nada. Totally nada. That’s because it’s not done yet. But soon . . . Remember The Bloodsong Series.
By the way, my first book, Stepping Off the Edge, is a finalist for the New Age category of the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Awards, the prestigious awards of the PMA, an association of independent publishers. That means Stepping is one of THREE books that might win the award. The award ceremony occurs in conjunction with Book Expo America, the largest event serving the largest book market in the world.

Grandmothers rock HARD!

Sandy Nathan

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