Tag Archives: Buddhism

Marketing a Book – #8 Public Speaking

Marketing a Book – #8   Public Speaking

probusIn my last post, I blogged about a book signing experience then ended by announcing an invitation to speak to a chapter of Probus, an association of retired former Rotarians. That event occurred on June 15, but it took some time to reflect on the experience. This was the first opportunity to present elements of my writing to the public as a presenter and merited considerable reflection. rotary

The invitation came as the result of an interview published in our local newspaper, which was the subject of an earlier post. The request was fairly specific, asking for a presentation on how I wrote an autobiography. The presentation had to be focused and address some specific points in one hour.

· What motivated my writing?

· How was the work of writing structured?

· How was the content generated and developed?

The venue was small and the audience numbered about twenty-five individuals. A PowerPoint presentation was saved on my hard drive and backed up in Dropbox. The hall was equipped with a newly installed 42 inch flat screen television with HDMI input ports, on screen instructions and a person in charge of the AV equipment with a minimum of knowledge about the system was there to help me set up. In fact, today was the first time it had been used in a presentation like mine.

I knew that AV equipment always needed setup and every system was different, so I arrived at the hall about thirty minutes prior to the time my presentation was to start. By the time, zero hour arrived everything was connected to my laptop and few PowerPoint slides prepared to illustrate the presentation were set at the introductory slide. I was ready to launch.

The presentation was titled, A LEGACY OF EXPERIENCE: Memoirs Speak Across the Generations: What do You Want to Say and to Whom? It touched on all the points as per the request, but also included some basic ideas about memory in general and autobiographical memory in particular. It was equally important to explain the nature and origin of self-image and self-esteem, two factors which influence how we remember the events of our lifetime.

Since my audience was essentially Caucasian and Christian and much of my writing is informed by basic ideas in Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism, it was important to explain the elements of those philosophies which shaped my thinking and writing. This audience, and perhaps most audiences I might face, need to see a shift toward Eastern philosophies as a move toward fundamental human values, not a repudiation of their fundamental belief system. The last thing one wants is to offend his audience, an issue that occupied my thoughts as I prepared for this event.

Once the basic concepts and philosophies supporting my writing were stated, the remainder of the talk focused on a structured approach to memoir writing. The concept of building an autobiography on the symbolism and structure of a Zen style garden was carefully unfolded for the audience. Each of the six elements found in such a garden was explained in terms of how it relates to the different aspects that form the narrative of a lifetime. In Through a Lens of Emptiness: Reflections on Life, Longevity and Contentment, I use this specific structural organization and symbolism to document my own life narrative in order to illustrate how that structure is applied in practice.20150523_162505 (2)

Years of experience in the classroom hones one’s observational skills. It is possible to gauge the interest and focus of an audience during a presentation (lesson) by body language, and following it by the number and quality of questions and interactions from the audience. One also learns how to pace the rate of speaking, modulate the voice, and move smoothly from the front of the hall into the audience and back again as needed to maintain contact with the audience. The power and efficacy of a presentation is also enhanced by appropriate eye contact and through the body language of the presenter.

An experienced presenter, like an experienced teacher, carry an evaluation rubric based on the above points in their head. Also, they become adept evaluators of their own behavior as a presenter (teacher) while they are speaking. While it may appear immodest to the reader, I felt pretty good about the whole event based on an evaluation of my behaviors, presenting style, and audience reaction before and after the presentation. I am comfortable making this judgement since, as a teacher, I always told my students that “I would fail my own mother is her performance warranted it”, and have always rated my own performance by a rigid and high standard.

After eight years in retirement, one always wonders if they still have the skills that made them successful as a presenter of information. This first event in my new life as an author and public speaker was an important one. I learned “I’ve still got it,” whatever “IT” is and am confident there is a future for me as a public speaker. At the age of sixty-nine (this August) an enthusiasm to make new beginnings and take on new challenges not only exists but thrives. My next challenge is to generate some more opportunities to speak publicly. I’ll let you know how that works out in a few months.

As always, your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author


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Trade Routes, Religion and The Way

The Way continued…

I ended my last post with the thought that the basic precepts of Eastern and Western religions and philosophies are the products of social evolution and trade between diverse peoples. As this line of reasoning continues, the term ‘The Way’ is used in a generic sense to represent positive social and personal behavioural attributes, not in reference to any specific religion or philosophy.

Ancient trade routes are present by the 3rd Millennium BCE. Trade routes between the civilizations in Asia, Asia Minor, Africa, India, the Mediterranean civilizations and major trading centers in each, are all very well established by the 1st Millennium BCE, thus providing ample opportunity for proponents of different Eastern belief systems to share ideas. This time frame neatly encompasses the period when the world’s great Eastern religions and philosophies took form; namely Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and Taoism.

The Vedas of Hinduism are pegged at about 1200 BCE. The origin of Judaism is reputed to begin with the migration of Abraham and his family from the city of Ur to Canaan in about the beginning of the 2nd Millennium BCE, but the Pentateuch (Five books of Moses) only took shape between the 9th and 5th Centuries BCE. The origins of Buddhism and Taoism are traced to somewhere in the 6th Century BCE. All of these peoples were involved in the exchange of goods and materials through trade. At the same time traders must also have exchanged ideas including codes of behaviour. Social organization beginning with primitive hunter-gatherer groups, continuing with the formation of permanent settlements, transitioning to city-states, the great empires of antiquity and extending to modern society, all depend on workable codes of behaviour.

All animal life must satisfy basic needs for food, protection from the elements, the opportunity to procreate and protection from harm. Stone Age man provided for those needs by forming small groups of cooperative hunter gatherers. Positive social evolution is driven by forces; basic human needs, the natural world, human emotion and interaction between and among people. With the discovery of edible plants and grain types that could be purposely cultivated, human communities began the transition from nomadic hunter gatherers to settlement dwellers about ten millennia ago. The socio-behavioural characteristics of altruism, respect for the property and person of other, nurturing and protecting the young and cooperating in all manner of ways, were prerequisite for the success of even the most primitive of human social organization.

Thus, The Way, becomes a path to survival and success for humanity. Difficulties and conflicts arise between peoples become an issue when one form of The Way is held to be superior to any another, or one or more precepts are subverted or ignored. Corruption, bribery, aggression, greed and whichever other of mankind’s negative behaviours are all the consequence of deviation from acceptable codes of behaviour. Unfortunately, such behaviours have not been extinguished from human society despite the best efforts of well-meaning people.

Until next time, as always, your faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss –Author of Through a Lens of Emptiness – Release date TBA

Please visit me at my author website at   www.lalanweiss.com

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This past Saturday, my wife and I turned to Netflix for some movie entertainment and came up with a movie called The Way starring Martin Sheen, based on a screenplay written by his son Emilio Estevez. I’ll leave it to the reader to investigate the details of the story line. At its heart, It is a ‘journey’ or ‘quest’’ story about a man that follows the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, which is called The Way. Coincidentally, the previous morning, I was discussing the possibility that ‘The Way’ adopted by the Nazarene sect, the early followers of Jesus, might have arisen from much earlier influences.

Many centuries Before the Christian Era (BCE), there are two significant groups that are dedicated to following The Way; namely the Buddha Way and the Tao. Research related to the content of my soon to be released book, Through a Lens of Emptiness, delved deeply into Eastern religions and philosophies, including Buddhism and Taoism. Even the Hindu caste system specifies a way of behavior that defines each caste.

Buddhism is grounded in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to enlightenment, and Taoism is defined by precepts, the most important of them are ten in number. The Nazarenes, initially a sect of Judaism was based on the Ten Commandments and the practices of Judaism. It was the ideas of Saul of Tarsus (Paul) that influenced the evolution of the Nazarenes into a group whose beliefs resemble Christianity today. When the foundational precepts of Buddhism and Taoism are examined and compared to the Ten Commandments and the purported teachings of Jesus, one is struck by the similarity in theme and prescription. Judaism is also essentially an Eastern belief system since it originated in the Near East.

In addition to the similarity in theme, I believe there is a similarity in purpose. Each of these systems of basic precepts represents the end product of millennia of social and behavioural evolution. They are all fundamentally moral codes of and prescribed behaviours that foster stability in human society. Even the description of the characteristics of a true pilgrim following The Way to Santiago de Compostela resemble aspects of the basic moral and behavioural characteristics of Eastern belief systems.

That’s enough deep thinking for tonight. In my next post, I plan to examine the role of trade routes in the interchange of religious and philosophical ideas.

What would Jesus think about this post? Please comment…..

As always, your faithful blogger . . .L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author of Through a Lens of Emptiness

Visit my author website at www.lalanweiss.com


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In production – AT LAST

Today was indeed a special day. When I logged into my file on the publisher web site, and looked at the tag ‘book status’, I saw the words ‘in production.’ Those words mark the beginning of the end of a pathway I entered on the 29th day of May in 2012, when I purchased my publishing package. Writing a book is truly a long and winding road.

This is a short post to inform whom ever follows these posts, that Through a Lens of Emptiness will soon be a reality. The next step toward completion and publishing my project will be cover design approval. I’m leaving that up to the designers at the publisher, but I am certainly excited to see how it looks.

I have not revealed who I am working with yet, but will make that information public after the book goes live and is available in print. There is more to write about at that time regarding costs and the services provided.

Until next time . . .as always,  you faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – Author of Through a Lens of Emptiness

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Conference Day – October 4, 2013

Today was conference day. When you work with an e-publishing house, a number of individuals contact you from time to time. I finally had a contact from the editorial office rather than anyone in a sales capacity. I enjoyed this conference more than any in the past months, because I received affirmation that I was on track re: following up on the suggestions and critique of the developmental edit. Since beginning the rewrite process, every attempt has been made to take the editors comments to heart and follow the guidance they offered.

Since I am a novice writer (author wannabe), my first draft suffered from a number of rooky errors, all of which emerged in the DE (developmental edit). My writing style was dry, dry, dry.  My first draft was full of redundancies, superfluities, and content sequence problems. The thread of my theme disappeared from time to time, only to reappear later out of context. Although sections of the text were well and intelligently written, the impact of my words was lost in convolutions, contortions and cognitive machinations. I even ranted from time to time offering opinions on material that did not contribute to the essence of the book in any way. From my title to my terminal section, the silk purse containing gems of ideas I had hoped to create was still a sows ear attached to a pigs breakfast of a manuscript. Instead of getting angry, I decided to get even with myself by working smarter, not harder. It turns out that smarter was also harder.

Since I was rewarded with encouragement from someone who is actually in the editorial office at the publisher, I think it appropriate to share how I handled the DE comments and what I did to get myself back on track. Here are a few basic preliminaries re: the mindset required to take full advantage of the DE.

1. Chuck your ego out the door, shut the door, and keep away from it with deliberation. A good healthy dose of old fashion Buddhist selflessness is in order here. An ego just gets in the way of the reality of the task ahead.

2. Keep this thought firmly in mind; the developmental editor is just doing their job and the DE is not a kick in the pants, it is an honest and thoughtful critique. Think of the DE as a push from behind to help you write better than ever and reach new heights of written expression.

Now that you have the correct mindset, you can begin the task of preparing to rewrite. Yes, I said preparing. Like setting up to do any task, be it writing or painting a wall, good preparation is half the job.

3. The next step is to read your DE carefully and critically, not as a critic, but as an empty vessel awaiting to be filled with precious elixir. That’s a bit of Taoist philosophy for you in case you missed it. Taoists believe, and I have come to believe,  that the usefulness of anything is marked by its emptiness, so that it can be filled appropriately when needed.

4. As you read the DE, keep a record of the number and types of comments made. Such a record will give a clear picture of weaknesses in writing style and inconsistencies in logic within the content.

5. Make a careful list of all the major flaws in your writing and make a sacred vow to yourself never to write another sentence, paragraph, section or chapter that contains any of them.

6. Never write too much prose without checking to make sure that what you wrote: (a) is consistent with your main purpose, (b) follows from what you wrote just before those words, (c) leads from where your have been to where you are going, (d) contributes to, and does not detract from your writing, (e) holds your reader and not turn them off, (f) makes your point without being offensive (of course you cannot please everyone), (g) is not a rant, (h) expresses an opinion without being opinionated, (I) uses plan words written in as grammatically correct prose as possible, (j) is an exercise in clarity not confusion  , (k) supresses negative aspects of ego, (l) and finally avoids all the issues identified in your DE.

I do not profess to have the magic formula for rewriting a first draft, only that this is what works for me. I hope it will be helpful to my readers and followers.

PS – An open note to my editorial contact re: today’s conference.

Thank you for being so generous with your time today. It was our first contact and it was important for me to let you know what I was doing re: my rewrite. I have been working in less of a vacuum since the DE, but I still had a sense of uncertainty about the direction I had taken with my writing. You listened patiently, reassured me that I had taken the developmental editors comments to heart and revised my work accordingly, and most importantly gave me a sense of being listened to. You also gave me some supportive responses directly and indirectly, for which I am very thankful. It was a great conference.

My intent is to share the process of working with an e-publishing house as well as sharing my reactions and feeling about the process in general. I will reveal which organization I am working with only after my book is officially released. Until then, I can only wish that others have an equally good experience working with an e- publisher.

Until my next post . . .


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Touchstones – An essential for achieving unity in writing

Once upon a time I was a teacher. Sorry for starting this like a Fairy Tale, but I have been retired for more than six and a half years and it all seems like a life that existed in a place long ago and far away. It’s interesting how when you least expect it, a few neurons trigger and you recall something very important. In my case it was the idea of using touchstones to preserve unity. Touchstones were very important to me as a teacher. As a teacher it was the unity of the subject matter I was concerned about, not just the content. The same thing applies to writing.  Another word for touchstone might be theme, but they are not exactly the same. When you carry a touchstone around, it is an object that brings you back to your center.

When I taught Senior High School Biology (I did so when there was still a Grade 13 in Ontario, so the content was equivalent to Freshman Biology at a college) I always had a few key touchstones that I would refer to as I taught through the year. I did that persistently so that my students could follow the flow of the lessons, and at the same time see the unifying elements among the different themes of Biology presented to them. It was a very successful teaching technique. So the other day, when those neurons fired for no particular reason and connected to the memory of my successful teaching technique, I saw it as a good way to approach the rewrite of my manuscript. Thank goodness for neurophysiologic phenomena.

Instead of picking some touchstones at random or through some approximation of what might work, I reread the comments of my DE (developmental editor) and reviewed all the discussion I have had with my editorial consultant, cleared my head of all preconceptions, and low and behold, there they were right in front of me all the time. My writing and thinking are heavily influenced be Eastern philosophies. In fact, my touchstones were deeply influenced by  Taoist and Zen Buddhist concepts related to “emptiness” and “Yin”Yang”. No big surprise really when I thought about it. Suddenly, the reorganization of content required by the DE just lined up the right way, and I was off to the races so to speak.

The expression “off to the races” might be a bit of an exaggeration, because the rewrite still needed a lot of work. With my touchstone securely in my mental pocket the work was moving in the right direction. There is no doubt that I was inspired to write by the essence of these philosophies, but even I had to look, read, think, and analyze to bring them to the surface. It is a “Chicken and Egg” sort of thing. The inspiration for the content arises from the philosophy, but the philosophy (the source of my touchstones) is partially obscured by the content. I not only had to look at my writing through the eyes of the reader, but I had to look at it through the eyes of a reader completely new to the content. I had to look at my readers as I looked at my new students who were new to the content of the course.

With more experience, I believe that I could have discovered my touchstones sooner in the creative process. Perhaps with a great deal of experience, the touchstones would have been there for me from the start of the project. The only thing I know for sure, at least for me, is that I need touchstones to write with power and coherence.

I don’t know how many posts I can produce over the next few weeks because I am off to Europe. My only avenue for communication is my trusty Blackberry Z10. I have been practicing writing longer and longer texts on the device, so I think I might be able to pull off a few posts. We shall see what I can do with my pocket-sized office. Have WiFi, will write.

Until the next time . . .

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