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Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People-Review and Interview

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I want to start off by saying that I’ve never been much of a believer in self-help books. Born with a hyper-sensitive BS detector, a practical mind, and color-coordinated set of lifelong baggage of major depression and physical and emotional trauma, I’m a pretty hard sell. I scoff at books that say I can “breathe and believe” my way into lifelong happiness. That the only reason I was depressed was that I didn’t believe hard enough. Give me a break.

Then I read Will Donnelly’s Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People, and it rocked my world.

What makes Will’s book different from your average run-of-the-mill yogi self-help book is that he’s not trying to sell you a better life, but asking you to look at your life at a different angle with relatable and simple messages with quotes at the beginning of each essay. The essays in the book are only a few pages long, giving you “bite-size” wisdom, separated into easy-to-find categories; if you’re looking for advice on personal responsibility or love and relationships, it’s easy to find what essays to read. While most self-help books act like a preacher on a pulpit, Will’s book speaks more like a friend giving you a little life advice, making him relatable to his reader. He knows love and grief and loss because he’s been there. After the death of his life partner Jeff to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, in 2010, Will was at a loss with his grief. He went on a long road of mourning and depression and found healing in both yoga and writing. Will knows what it means to struggle and come back.

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer. He has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating/co-hosting a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Guru2Go, Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher (and gay man), Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice.  While Will has been teaching yoga for 17 years and practicing it for much longer, you don’t have to be a yogi to get the full benefits of this book. You just have to be a person. There are so many wonderful lessons to take away from this book, from essays on doubt to trust, his words stay with you long after you close the book.

I had the absolute privilege to “virtually” sit down with Will and have an enlightening conversation about his book.

How did the process of this book get started? 

I was processing grief during that time and I had a voice for yoga and wellness so I put the two together, journaling about life issues, about loss, about doubt, all sorts of things you’ll find in the book that I talk about in my yoga classes. My students would often say to me “Whatever you said at the beginning of class was really incredible, do you have that written down?” and I always say I actually don’t, so over the years I’ve been chronicling each of my thoughts that I would bring up in class that were relevant to personal growth and tried to write an essay about it and how it could help. These lessons I talk about saved me from the depression I was living with for the last eight years.

I ended up writing 70 or 80 essays through the blog “Confessions of an Accidental Yogi” and I decided that some of the essays I was very happy with and wanted to have them out in the world. So I grouped together the top 50 essays and put them in categories, such Trust & Faith, Personal Responsibility, and Love & Relationships, so it was easy reading. We’re all here to help each other, and as soon as we recognize that, then both our beauty and natural radiance, as well as our pain that we suffer through, can help others, just by saying “you’re not alone.” Life is a very weird and strange place to land in and I think by sharing stories and offering them gently, a lot of people can resonate with them as they deal with the journey of life.

What was the writing process like? How did you come up with ideas for essays? 

All of them are individual creations. Many come from my own personal experience dealing with my own fears, like traveling by myself after having been so fortunate to have had a travel companion most of my adult life (through my life partner). Some stories were triggered by quotes or passages read in books. A lot of blog posts were born in the writing group I teach in Hawaii (Writing from the Core with Will) and through meditations and conversations.

What of your own advice was the hardest to follow? 

The piece about doubt, I have to come back to that over and over again, to have faith because doubt is a part of faith. I am filled with doubt. When I think “Oh, I can’t do it,” or “I’m scared, I don’t know what to do next,” I have to recognize that that’s the beginning step of a very powerful journey in life and to have faith that it’s all going to work out.  The beauty of getting older, which is not prized in the gay male community, is that you can look back on your life and see your choices and it makes it easier to make them again if they’re positive choices. You can look back and say “I had doubt when I moved to LA and 3 years later I had my own TV show.” My favorite quote I use often on social media is by Fran Lebowitz: “Every Intention, every achievement has come out of dissatisfaction, not serenity. No one ever said ‘Things are perfect, let’s invent fire’”

What lesson or mantra do you follow everyday? 

It’s really profound to watch someone you love and adore get sick and during that time, I would think “I can’t do this, I can’t physically do this” and the mantra that stuck with me is a Stephen Hawking quote, “It matters if you just don’t give up.” If we’re not taking care of each other if we’re just here to be greedy, then what’s the point? It’s really easy to fall into despair about what humanity is doing right now, but then I realize it doesn’t matter what humanity is doing, it matters what I am doing and if I’m creating a joyful life. To go back to the Aquarian Age mantra in yoga: “Keep up and you’ll be kept up.” If you can find a way to keep going in a difficult 11-minute yoga pose, you can do that in every part of your life.

What was the easiest and what was the hardest part of writing this book?

The easiest part was going back and re-editing everything because it had all been written for the blog. The hardest part was wondering if this book was worth it because I didn’t want to end up putting more garbage out there. I wondered “Will people enjoy this? Is it pretentious or is it the real deal?” So I think the biggest challenge was having faith that my voice was worthy to be heard. It was an incredible feeling to be on the other side of that.

What is one piece of advice you want our readers to hear? 

I think the reality is that it’s our goal, perhaps especially in the LGBTQ communities, to appreciate the diversity of life and to dive into it and not feel like such an outsider or feel so threatened by it. So it’s about learning to open our minds up to a bigger picture of what life is really about. So dive in, dive into all of it, don’t miss it. Whatever our dreams are, it’s important to do it and to do some form of service to humanity, some way of giving out to the world other than taking.

Will currently lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he leads yoga and therapeutic writing classes at Kalani. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year, including the annual Holiday Yoga Retreat. His book, “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life” is available here. Information on retreats, audio clips from his book, his newsletter, and access to his popular yoga & meditation workout video (now available for streaming, first of the three workouts is free) can be found at WillsPracticalYoga.com.

I’ll leave you with one last word of wisdom from Will Donnelly:

“Your struggles don’t define you. We’re all struggling through life and it’s important not to get caught up in the struggle because so many do and become defined by their issues or their past. You get to reinvent yourself every day and you can use your past, no matter how damaged, as a bouncing point to go somewhere deeper and have a richer life because of it.”

Originally posted 2017-11-09 18:01:50.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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How To Complete NaNoWriMo Without Losing Your Sanity

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When most think of November, they conjure up images of turkey, cozy sweaters, and the seemingly endless preparations for the Holiday Season. However, if you’re in the writing community, November brings up images of frantic typing and the fear of a looming deadline.

That’s right folks, NaNoWriMo is here, and it’s getting cray.

  What’s NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s a fancy acronym for National Novel Writing Month. This month-long creative “holiday” was created by freelance writer Chris Baty in July of 1999 with 21 participants in the San Francisco Bay area. The next year, it was moved from July to November to “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.

The objective? Write a rough draft of a novel (about 50,000 words or more) in 30 days. Anyone else screaming yet?

This is a free event that anyone can do, just join their website and start writing in any format. Just as long as you get 50,000 words before the end of the month. Participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length and receive a printable certificate, an icon they can display on the web, and inclusion on the list of winners. Also, bragging rights.

 Hey there,  I’m Ellen, a Features Writer here at TravelPride and a writer by occupation. I have a BFA in Creative Writing and have written a novel already. I’ve always wanted to do NaNoWriMo and I thought this would be the perfect time to do it. Plus I want to take a break from writing my current memoir and do the fun interconnected short story collection I’ve been dying to write for years. I thought this was going to be so easy. I mean my senior thesis was 50,000 words. My novel manuscript is 96,000 words. 50,000 words will be a piece of cake.

Me, Writer and actual Fool.

I was wrong. It’s hard ya’ll.

       To complete NaNoWriMo on time you need to write 1,667 words per day, which is roughly 6 pages, double-spaced. That may not seem like a lot, but with everything you have to do in a day, plus find the creativity and energy to write 6 pages seems overwhelming.

   Then there’s something I call the “NaNo slump” which happens around the second or third week of November. The first week of NaNoWriMo you’re all excited and ready to write, cranking out 2,000+ words a day. Then you get busy, writer’s block or just plain fall behind and then quit because you think you can ever catch up.

   Well, stop write there (get it?). I’ve got some great tips for how to complete NaNoWriMo without losing your inspiration, hope, and sanity.

 

Write Everyday

The most important part of writing for NaNoWriMo or just being a writer is creating a writing schedule. One of the genius things about NaNoWriMo is that it allows you to become a better and more successful writer after this is over since it takes 30 days to create a habit. By writing every day in the month of November, you’re setting yourself up for writing all year long.

Carve a period of time out of your day and set it aside just for writing. It can be early in the morning, late at night, an hour, two, whatever you can and use that time to just write and only write. If your life is a little crazy and can’t form a schedule, write when you’re on the go. Carry your tablet with you, use the Notes app on your phone, or do the old-fashioned pen and paper and write whenever you get a free moment. Waiting for your flight? Write. Commuting to home or work? Write. On your lunch break? Write! You’ll be surprised how all those little moments of writing really add up. It’s just important to write every day. Just write it!

Prompts

   Oh, Writer’s block, the sworn enemy of a writer. That blank page causes so much anxiety and could lead you to giving up on your project because you’re “stuck.” A writing prompt could help you. NaNoWriMo’s website is awesome because they have a feature called “word sprints” which is a timed writing challenge. You set a timer, open up your draft, and race against the clock to add words to your novel. They have a cool “dare me” button that gives you little writing prompts such as “Write a scene that takes place in a house of mirrors.” or “Have one character have a sudden personality switch with another”. It’s a fun little way to get the juices going. You can also just google “writing prompts” to find some good ones. Have fun with it!

Buddy System

   Teamwork makes the dream work! NaNoWriMo has a cool feature where you can have a writing buddy with friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo, which is a fun way to help encourage each other or be a shoulder to cry on. One of my dear friends, Cassie, who’s also a writer has been doing NaNoWriMo for years and she’s been a great resource (she also made a book cover for me, because she’s the real MVP). My friend Kelsey is doing NaNoWriMo for the first time too. It’s just nice to not feel alone in my frustrations and have someone who is also going through this. NaNoWriMo also has forums where writers can talk to one another because, despite popular belief, writers are not solitary creatures, but communities.

Let Go and Have Fun

   I personally put so much pressure on myself, not only during NaNoWriMo but in my everyday professional life. When something I write isn’t perfect on the first try, or I don’t meet my word count, I beat myself up over it. You have to remember that NaNoWriMo is all about having fun. No one is reading your novel right now, no one is judging you but yourself. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words, it’s okay if you take a break or write something crappy. You can always write more words and it’s better to write something crappy and edit it later than to never write at all.

   For some more words of advice let’s talk to TravelPride’s own Editor and Weekly Columnist, Summer Kurtz. Summer has actually completed NaNoWriMo in the past. Here’s how she completed the writing challenge:

“I had to set a schedule/goal and really stick to it as closely as I could. I think I tried to do a certain number of words daily and if I didn’t quite hit that I had a weekly goal to try and meet or even exceed if possible. It really helped me to become a more disciplined writer but also learn not to beat myself up over not reaching every single goal. On days I got stuck I would write a couple hundred words on any other topic I felt like until my motivation returned.”

   Fantastic advice. How are doing in NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments and follow my own NaNoWriMo journey here. Remember: we’re all in this together!

Happy Writing!

 

Originally posted 2017-11-15 18:30:10.

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Ten Literary Landmarks For Any Traveling Booklover

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Books are magical. They can take you to far-off places without even moving your feet. But what if you want to see the places of people you’ve read about in real life? Luckily, organizations such as the American Library Association, global historical society, and die-hard bookworms, have preserved and created literary landmarks that anyone can enjoy all across the world. From childhood homes, museums, and even statues. Here’s a list of 10 places to add to your literary bucket list.

 

 

 

Edith Wharton(1862-1937) broke gender boundaries and society’s exceptions to become one of America’s greatest writers. She was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel Age of Innocence. Most of her novels have themes of declining morals and wealth in the late nineteenth century. The Mount is not your typical author home tour. Not only does it offer guided tours and exhibits, it also has ghost tours, mimosas on the terrace, a cafe, a women’s writer-in resistance program, and a pet cemetery. Heck, you can even have your wedding at the Mount, but honestly, you had me at ghost tours.

  1.  The windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, Southampton, NY

  

 Okay, so I’m down for anything that has to deal with windmills but the story behind the Windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton Campus is both interesting and sad. In 1957. the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the campus windmill after the death of his friend and Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, and wrote the play “The Day on Which a Man Dies” based on Pollock. Sad, but the fact that he lived in a windmill is pretty cool.

  1. Charles Dickens Museum, London , England

Making a trek to London during the holiday season?  Make sure you plan to visit 48 Doughty Street, the London Home of Charles Dickens. This is the home where the famed writer wrote the classic novel Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. The Charles Dickens Museum holds over 100,000 items including manuscripts, personal items and more. There are exhibits, a garden cafe, as well as a lot of activities for children such as the Costumed Christmas walks, performances of “A Christmas Carol” and “A Very Dickensian Christmas Eve.”

  1. Sleepy Hollow, New York

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has become a classic Halloween spooky story still read today. However, many don’t know that Sleepy Hollow is a real place, one which has fully embraced its celebrity status. There’s the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Tour, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, The Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse Tours, Haunted Hayrides and so much more. They even take on some other classic works such as a circus-theater adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and a one-man show of A Christmas Carol.

  1. Walden Pond, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Get lost like Thoreau by visiting Walden Pond! Perfect for nature lovers, you can take a lovely nature walk/hike, spend the day at the beach, go kayaking or canoeing on the water or fish; you can even cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter. You can visit Thoreau’s original cabin and the reproduction. Since the land has been left unchanged it’s almost like you’re walking through the Walden that Thoreau knew.

  1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London, England.

Shakespeare and book lovers go together like pretzels and Nutella. Even if you haven’t read any of the original Shakespearean text, you’ve probably been exposed to some adaptions (10 Things I Hate about You anyone?). The Globe is still standing after many rebuilds, and still holds performances as well as exhibitions and tours. They still put on Shakespeare’s plays; last season they put on King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, some with a modern twist.

  1. Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station, London

Every Harry Potter fan dreams of one day going to Platform 9 3/4 and getting on the Hogwarts Express. While you might not be able to hop on the Hogwarts Express, you can now find the actual Platform 9 3/4 and have your picture taken holding the handle of a trolley, making it look like you’re running from one world to the next. Don’t forget your wand and house scarf!

  1. James Joyce’s Dublin, Ireland.

Author James Joyce made his beloved Ireland famous with his epic novel Ulysses and other novels that also take place in the city of Dublin. It’s so popular that there is even a holiday known as “Bloomsday” in honor of the character. You can take a walking tour of James Joyce’s Dublin, a 3.5-mile route broken up into two days for the full experience. Some of the stops on the tour include the James Joyce Center, The Writer’s Museum, Merrion Square where you’ll find a statue of laid-back Oscar Wilde, and lots of bars.

  1. Jane Austen’s House and Museum, Hampshire, England

As a Jane Austen fan, I’m all about the Jane Austen House and Museum. Especially since this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death. There’s a lot of bicentennial events going on including exhibits, film screenings, talks, walks, and even picnics. You may even find your match!

  1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

As a huge Poe fan, I would be remiss to leave him off the list. The Poe house, while not in some haunted mansion or catacomb, is still pretty cool. They have an enchanted garden (with a Pumpkin Patch), a shrine to Poe where people like Gertrude Stein and H.P. Lovecraft have visited, as well as a large collection of Poe’s artifacts. The museum also has two living black cats: Edgar and Pluto, that live in the museum. There are also a lot of parties going on at the museum, such as a Halloween Bash, an “Unhappy” Hour of live music, and Poe’s Birthday Bash on January 20th. They host weddings at the Enchanted Garden, which is the only way I’ll ever have a wedding.

 

Have you visited these literary landmarks or have more destinations to add that will make any book lover put down their book? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Travels!

Originally posted 2017-11-14 20:32:01.

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#FiveFilms4Freedom LGBT+ Film Festival

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The #FiveFilms4Freedom 2017 film festival is travelling across the pond this November. Originally hosted in Britain this past March, it is the first and largest LGBT+ film festival, and has featured independent LGBT+ short films from around the globe.

The film festival began in 2014 in Britain, sponsored by the British Council and the British Film Institute. It is a part of the larger BFI Flare film festival, which began in 1986, and is sponsored by the Love is GREAT Britain Campaign. .

This year’s #FiveFilms4Freedom festival marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. As such, all five films were created by UK filmmakers.

After the films premiered in the UK in March, they were brought to Washington, D.C. on November 1, and will be shown in Los Angeles on November 13 and in New York City on November 16. The festival will also feature a panel of prominent LGBT+  rights advocates from the US and the UK, as well as two participating directors.  

The films focus on a range of LGBT+ relationships and issues. The majority of them are love stories; Crush tells the story of a young girl who finds herself smitten with another girl she sees at a train station, Heavy Weight deals with a young male boxer and his reaction to the arrival of a new fighter, and Jamie is a very modern story about a man who bravely decides to meet with the man he has been talking to on a dating site. The other two films explore very different experiences in the LGBT+ community. Still Burning is about a young migrant living in Paris who shows his brother the exciting and freeing voguing movement. The title is taken from the film Paris is Burning, a documentary about the voguing movement in New York City and its effect on the African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities. The final film is a documentary set in Scotland, entitled Where We Are Now, and focuses on a transgender parent and her bisexual daughter.

The BFI Flare festival as well as #FiveFilms4Freedom have given the LGBT+ community an excellent place for celebration and representation, especially in the UK. With the decriminalization of homosexuality 31 years ago, British LGBT+ representation is extremely important because it has only been able to exist for a short amount of time. The festival allows filmmakers to make LGBT+ people and relationships extremely public, and continues to encourage and support the idea that LGBT+ people can make and star in incredible pieces of media. The move from showing the films in Britain alone to showing them in the US will hopefully continue to encourage the rise of LGBT+ relationships in mainstream media as well as in independent media.

Tickets for the festival in New York City are still available for reservation here. The festival is on November 16 from 6 – 9 PM at the Barclays-ASK Auditorium on Seventh Avenue. The festival is also currently accepting submissions for next year’s festival here.

Originally posted 2017-11-13 21:00:23.

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