A Guide to Manhood

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABoys want men in their lives as models of what to become, as guides along sometimes shaky paths, and as companions just for sharing. Boys need men in their lives to grow into capable, confident, nurturing men for a strong and secure society. Without realizing it, fifteen-year-old Paul Hansen found what he wanted and needed to climb from youth to manhood. In Turnaround Summer, he gives us an inside peek—with humor, sensitivity, and wisdom—of the magical results from men mentoring boys. Turnaround Summer calls all men to ensure a bright future for our world by becoming that guide to manhood our boys need.

Welcome, Paul. Turnaround Summer is a memoir, a coming-of-age story about you as a teen. What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?

It was words from my faith, where God spoke to me to tell my story of how others helped me on my journey to manhood.  Though there were others in my life, this particular time was hard for me at home, and I needed a sort of wakeup call, that I could overcome the obstacles.

Tell us a little about your father, your relationship with him, and what prompted him to send you to Canada that summer in 1961.

My father was close to me all the years of growing up. He was a successful businessman and divided his time between trying to maintain a home relationship, a marriage and raising three children. The marriage ended in tragedy and reflected in his career; at the time of going to Canada, he was recalling the people and the place where he experienced breakthrough in his own battles, and that life is an adventure in so many forms. He wanted me to focus on unknown horizons, the ruggedness of the wilderness and the people that navigated it, and why they were successful.

My Dad visited there for guided hunting and fishing (with Paul’s mentor Ted Helset) over a number of years. He developed his skills in that venue, from people who did it for a living and a way of life. There reason for being up there was to overcome the hardship, learn from nature, and adapt to its complexity and beauty. It was a rugged life only for the hearty with a sense of survival. Though my Dad came from the depression era, and knew about survival in that arena, he loved the woods and wanted me to share in that, with people that lived it daily.

Paul on boat

What was the most important thing you learned that summer?

That summer, I learned that in the middle of your journey you are offered the opportunity to walk down another trail in a totally unfamiliar environment, experience that, savor the difference and add it to your list of experiences. To respect all walks of life, their loves and desires, hardships and triumphs, and their offer to share with you. Life as we see it is not necessarily the only vantage point. There are so many other opportunities to view the horizon from another perspective.

What is the message you want readers to take away from Turnaround Summer?

The message is that we have so much in our lives of value, share it with the next generation or two or three. They are the inheritors of this world, they need to know that their story will someday be of value if they seize the opportunities we can offer. They are so receptive if we reach into their hearts, and listen to their curiosities.  They only lean into the things that internalize them for lack of another outlet. Challenge them to go beyond the television, the computer, and actually live life outside the box.

Are you working on another book?

Starting a novel with a bit of emotional and romantic background based on things currently materializing in my life.  It has an aspect of relationship, adventure, crisis and tragedy. All of which we experience at one time or another in our lives if we choose to live beyond what we perceive as  “the edge”  This is definitely a work in progress as the rest of the story has not completed itself in my life as yet… But will very soon!

Paul Hansen worked for thirty years as a building contractor in western Washington. Now retired, he enjoys time with his three children, grandchildren, and extended family in the area, gardening, traveling throughout North America, but Paul makes sure he still has time to fish! Paul’s wife Linda of 44 years passed away last April. He says, “I am marrying a beautiful woman from our church, she was widowed 7 months before I was, and mentored me through the grief process. She was a friend of Linda’s, and we actually helped with her husband’s service.  We have been together since last July, and have found commonality in our lives. She is a water color artist, loves music, plays the piano as I do, and I make her laugh a lot with the rest of my stories.”

Linda's 19-lb Silver

Linda’s 19-lb Silver

Turnaround Summer is available on Amazon.com 

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Fine February

Heidi sits in sun 2_20_14I used to hate February. It was the longest month of the year. When I was a kid in Montana, February often meant sky-high snowdrifts. When I lived in Northwest Washington, February was gray, cold, windy and rainy. Oh, and did I mention dark? Also, did I mention I have S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

Last February, our first in Arizona, was on the cold side, with a couple of snow storms, but over all sunny. This year, oh my gosh–into the 70s last week, 62 today. That’s considered “summer” during two weeks in August in WA! No more S.A.D.!

Today, I got a bit chilled sitting at my computer, so I went outside to warm up! If it hadn’t been for a slight breeze, I might have been comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt!

My apologies to my family and friends in the frigid North. But I’m loving this!

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 6:02 am  Comments (1)  
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Painful, Beautiful Individuality

by Kathryn Craft, author of The Art of Falling

ArtOfFallingSmallI was fifteen, and I had a legal problem. I stood facing an official representative of the Department of Motor Vehicles, whose role was to fill out my learner’s permit application.

“Last name.”

“Graham.”

“First name.”

“K-a-t-h-r-y-n.”

“Middle name.”

“I don’t have one.”

The woman peered at me over her half-glasses and spoke with the tired expression of one who has heard it all. “No one likes their middle name, but you have to tell me. It’s the law.”

Apparently it hadn’t been illegal for my parents to fail to give me one. How did they know they wouldn’t get their desired boy until child five? They’d run out of girl names they liked.

I shrugged. “Sorry.”

She started to write in the space. I read upside down, hoping not to see the word “Sorry.” She wrote: NONE. This made me feel like a ZERO.

I had a good long heart-to-heart on this matter with my best friend, Ellen, the next day. We were on the upper deck of our neighborhood swimming pool, making fudgies. We’d opened a pack of brownies from the vending machine and rendered plucked-off sections pliable by rolling them between our hands. I was fashioning the body for a little fudgie pig while Ellen and I tried to think up a middle name for me.

I needed something that would make me fit in with all the other three-named people in the country, but at the same time distinctive enough to stand out. When I’d told my mother what had happened she’d been unconcerned; she figured her daughters could use their maiden name in the middle once we get married.

I did not think I should count on that.

It was as if this portion of my identity remained elusive. If I could rename myself by the time I got my real license, it could be official. So I sought Ellen’s advice. But she said, “I don’t know, Kath, you’re the only person I’ve ever met who didn’t get a middle name. It’s kind of exotic.”

“What do you think of Margaret? Kathryn Margaret. I like it better than Ann Margaret, don’t you?”

Ellen thought it over as she lined up her fudge art on the deck railing. I expected Ellen would like the name, because she liked me, and was not the type to lash out with the God’s-honest-truth like members of my family. “Too Catholic. Makes you sound like a nun.”

“Oh.” I realized the huge mistake I could make by renaming myself. If I made a bad decision, I’d have no one to blame but me.

“My dad’s middle name is Weist.”

“Kathryn Weist Graham.” Ellen Patricia tried it on. She didn’t like her own middle name, and never used it. She wouldn’t need one for long—she was beautiful and tan and classy and already had a boyfriend who was nuts about her. “I like that one.”

“But it’s a family name,” I said. “It seems like it should be bestowed, not claimed.” I pressed a little tail to my pig’s behind. “I guess I could just use Nonnie.”

“Nonnie? Where’d that come from?”

“The lady put it on my permit form yesterday: N-O-N-E. You could pronounce that Nonnie, right?”

We laughed. I added my pig fudgie with its drooping tail to Ellen’s svelt snake on the deck railing. The forecasted storm would wash them away, but concerns about fitting in and distinguishing oneself would be themes I’d revisit again in my life.

My artistic aptitude would not end up expressing itself in the realm of edible sculpture—the very next year I discovered dance, then later, writing. But in my choreography and in my debut novel, The Art of Falling, I would continue to explore what defines our individual contribution as an artist—how to be enough like others to fit into the market, and how to be individual enough to be distinctive.

My protagonist, Penelope Sparrow, struggles with this theme in regard to body image. When the strong and resilient body she blames for ruining her dance career saves her life after what should have been a deadly fall, giving her an extraordinary chance to reinvent herself, can she fight her obsessive need to fit in and embrace her individuality boldly enough to leave a distinctive mark on the Philadelphia dance world? Join her, and see!

Kathryn Graham Williams Craft ended up with plenty of names, thank you, but that’s a whole different story. She isCraft_small_photo the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, which was released on January 28 and has already gone back for a second printing, and While the Leaves Stood Still (due Spring 2015). Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads Craftwriting workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 6:54 am  Comments (13)  
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Clustering Helps Writing

Cluster Diagram“Clustering” is a type of brainstorming or pre-writing that can help give you ideas either before you start writing or when you get stuck. With this technique you can map out your thinking using circles and lines to display“branches” of your ideas or connections between your ideas.

Choose a word, for example the name of your main character. Write it down and circle it. This will be the center of your cluster. Then randomly as each new word or phrase comes to mind, circle it, and connect it with a line to the word that sparked it. It can be other characters in your story, or a physical description, or inner characteristics. Attach each word that seems like an entirely new direction to the center idea.

But don’t allow that ugly inner editor to intrude–don’t get hung up on which words connect to what. The idea is to let thoughts run quickly without editing, censoring, or worrying about proper sequence.

Try this for 3-5 minutes, like a free-writing exercise. Keep adding to it when you think of new ideas. See where it leads you in your storyline.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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