When he began doing cement construction work at the tender age of thirteen under his father’s watchful eye, he was tossed into a bundle of Italian immigrants and black laborers who shared their way of living with him—homemade wine, genuine Italian-bread-roasted-pepper sandwiches, fried chicken and drenched-in-oil-right-out-of-the-can sardines, garnished with a simple wisdom bathed in a luminosity that shaped his life.
Discovering molecules and atoms in high school, he was instantly drawn into chemistry and, eventually, chemical engineering. After twenty-five years of an immensely satisfying technical career blessed with a camaraderie only engineers can understand, the white collar/blue collar divide caught his attention, stimulating a curiosity about group dynamics and leading to a twenty-year, team-building career that took him across the US, Canada, Europe, and Saudi Arabia, providing a new pathway for self discovery and contributing to others.
His most important career, however, was being his wife’s partner who taught him all he would ever need to know about life and love and what it means to be human.
A common thread throughout has been a passion for writing, with a sprinkling of published short stories and articles along the way, including a couple of Chicken Soup for the Soul stories. Dianna’s Way is his first book.
<><><><>Update: Interview with John – February, 2015
Living in the Midwest, this time of year, many of us feel we are in the “winter doldrums.” How are your particular coping skills:
Do you feel any particular sensation of sadness, boredom? Like anyone I feel sadness when I notice something bad happening to others or a sad movie but I have little occasion to feel any feelings like this out of my own personal life – which I am grateful is true.
Do you miss the sunlight? No. Like all kinds of weather – all of it is beautiful in its own way.
Do you still find time to connect with nature during the winter season? My Golden Retriever, Spirit, walks me twice a day no matter what the weather so he has me well trained. I love our walks together – he doesn’t talk much and neither do I. Many days it is like a walking meditation and living in the country as I do, in serene surroundings too – Nature all around with little surprises here and there to wake us up now and then.
Does being inside more than being outside give you the advantage (or disadvantage) of allowing yourself more time to write? Each day I am outside at least 2-3 hours.day so works out as a fine balance for me. I write on a desktop computer in my office so that has to be inside – and I like it that way. Gives me a sense of place when writing, which works for me.
Considering the seasons and the hours in the day:
Which season do you prefer the most? I like them all just about equally for their own qualities but do lean a bit toward fall. Spring is probably my least favorite by a little because it tends to be muddy walking in some places – but all are good really.
What is your favorite time of day for walking with Spirit? We always walk in the morning and in the evening; the time varies with how much daylight we are getting (time of year) – usually around a bit after day break and an hour before sunset.
A Bucket List is described as “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”. Do you have a Bucket List? If so, share a few of your goals with us. Finish this book I am writing and the third one I have in mind. Remain complete with everyone – that is, on the day I die, I want to be able to say I am happy with how my relationships with all others feel to me and nothing has been left undone – that is, there is nothing I have to say or do to “make it right” with them. Other than that, there is nowhere I have to go or nothing else I have to do to feel good about my life.
As a gifted writer, is it typical for him or her to also be talented in other areas such as art and music? Do you personally find that is true? I wouldn’t know given that I don’t know if I am a gifted writer or not – I just know I love doing it. As for my own talents I think I could have been a passable artist if I had pursued it and never explored playing music so have no idea about that, In general, if one wants to be their best at something they usually have to pour all their energy into it, leaving little time or energy for other pursuits but can’t make a rule out of this either – some people seem to have a wide array of talents and can somehow express them – though hardly ever all at one time in their lives or so it seems to me.
How do you cope with ever-changing technologies; the expectation to maintain the status quo by purchasing the latest “gadget” and to constantly be in a “learning mode?” Don’t need a lot of technology to be in learning mode – just curiosity – and the internet helps a lot if one is so inclined. I am not much interested in the latest gadget – don’t want to use my time and energy learning how to use them – keeping my life simple is a goal I strive to maintain.
Your beta readers: you will eventually be passing along your book’s manuscript to your beta readers.
What are your expectations from these readers? Be honest, be critical, tell me what they liked, did not like, point out errors if they see them.
Are your beta readers familiar with you? All of them.
Do you look for certain characteristics in your beta readers (are they avid readers, are they also writers, are they savvy about the publishing process, do they read your specific genre)? In the case of the first book and this one, helps if most (not all) of them knew Dianna well (I want to reflect a real Dianna not my potentially rose colored idea of her so hope they keep me honest in that way) Nice if at least one of them is a writer too. I also have a good professional editor who I pay of course. She knows me but would never coddle me. Actually, my best friends don’t coddle me either.
Do you supply them with a questionnaire to them? No. Just ask them to read the book in a timely way and critically – then tell me if they liked it or not and why. I got a ton of very helpful comments about the manuscript of my first book – they greatly improved the quality of it.
Will you evaluate every comment (or response)? Of course. I would not ask them to read it, and then ignore what they have to say. In the end though, the book has to be true to what I have to say regardless of what others think about it.
Multitasking: the trend is for folks to stop the multitasking and learn to focus on “zone” you are in, enjoy the process you are undertaking, rather than grouping several tasks together and feeling no sense of accomplishment. How do you feel about multitasking? For anything important it is a killer of doing good work. Fine to cook or exercise while listening to the radio or something like that (even that can occasionally hurt the quality of what one is doing though) but to do anything really well, trying to pay attention to more than one thing really gets in the way (the latest science has confirmed this by the way) – same effect as constant distractions – kills momentum, breaks up thought strings, evaporates emotion. When I am writing, I like silence or, once in a while, some soft jazz or Puccini opera (helps me stay in touch with my heart) in the background but very, very low so I hardly notice it.
# end of Interview, February 2015
<><><><>UPDATE – INTERVIEW WITH JOHN – JANUARY, 2015
We are now into a New Year, 2015. Everyone is curious about how you will approach new beginnings such as this.
Do you make Resolutions? Sometimes I do, but not this year.
If not Resolutions, do you have specific Goals for 2015?
Complete writing Dianna’s Way/The Practices in a way that I feel grateful it came out the way it did. Then publish it and share it with as many people as are interested. And I hope the tomatoes do well this year.
In general, what are your hopes and dreams?
Good question. I guess my hope is that we address climate change in a sufficiently effective manner that our children’s children still have a planet they can live and thrive upon, an outcome increasingly in doubt. I won’t be here to experience most of the consequences but it is not going to be pretty. Also that our loss of democracy and galloping inequality be addressed with a peaceful revolution, which is what it will take. Actually the very same actions could address – and solve – both problems.
There is a current wave going on called Mindfulness, something I’m sure you have practiced throughout your life. Would you provide your thoughts on this brief explanation of Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the state of actively and openly being attentive to the present. This process has roots in many religions but has become a helpful method of treating various negative behaviors and emotions. Mindfulness involves observing thoughts, feelings, and emotions subjectively without judgment. The practice is simple to perform, but the best benefit comes from consistent repetition”.
This is a pretty good description of mindfulness, I think. The “observing” part is not easy because most of us are in the habit of simply reacting to life, usually unconsciously – and the “without judgment” is a hard part for most of us too. Parts of the book I am working on deal with this practice. Dianna was naturally adept at being present, a practice amply shown in Dianna’s Way. Mindfulness also pops up in the last chapter of the book I am working on now. As for myself, I have meditated daily for most of my adult life and found it does make a difference. It is hard to connect the dots in a rational way but what I have noticed is being present is a more joyful, fulfilling space to be in almost no matter what happens to be going on in the present. I feel inherently more cheerful even when the circumstances do not warrant it.
Do you believe in Miracles?
Every day when the sun blinks up over the eastern horizon and golden rod is waving in the wind, and every breath I take and ….. all of it ….. is an incredible miracle whenever I choose to notice it. So, yes.
Do you have a go-to practice that you reach for first when faced with a challenging situation?
I write or sleep or walk. Regularly write in a morning journal and often record dreams and meditation insights. Like most writers, I have notebooks for books I am currently working on or thinking about writing. My Golden Retriever, Spirit, walks me twice a day regardless of the weather – being in Nature is often a walking form of meditation and good ideas often show up then or get clarified without effort.
Jumping out of the clouds now and getting into the life of a Writer, what is the status of your current book?
I was going along really well until I fell into a hole so II am struggling with it right now. I am not worried about completing it – I will complete it – but it has taken a lot longer than I thought it would – meaning I am learning a lot more about myself than I thought I had to learn. OK though. Just part of the process and, in a perverse way, part of the fun of it. The art work for the book is coming right along though so that makes me happy.
Do you have plans of writing another book?