Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Happy Birthday”

Happy Birthday, Brad Pitt and Pele

Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He is fourteen and definitely a teenager. He wouldn’t want me to write a blog about him, though I am guilty of this and this. However it doesn’t seem right to wish Brad Pitt a happy birthday (his is tomorrow) and ignore my son ‘n heir, as we Brits are wont to say. So happy birthday, Pele.

Heralding from the olde countrye I am royally not amused with the whims and ways of actors and actresses. Living in California, I can’t help but note the amount of time people spend talking about them, and not necessarily their artistic achievements either.

We have family in SoCal which brings me, a few times a year, closer to Hollywood, duly noted by the fact that the stories often contain personal anecdotes: I met xxxx at the supermarket, I swam in yyyy’s pool.

But I do have a crush on Brad Pitt. I don’t think it is because of his devilish good looks and I am not even sure in what movies I have seen him. The crush was preceded by admiration. Upset with the failure of our government to come to the aid of those who lost their houses to Hurricane Katrina and the levee debacle, Pitt got some like-minded friends together and went to work, creating an organization called Make It Right.

But Pitt isn’t just about building houses. He wanted to make an environmental statement. People in the area talk about their houses being too cold in the winter and an oven in the summer. Heaters and air conditioners work around the clock for those who can, and often those who can’t afford them (I’m talking about the inhabitants and the environment).

Pitt’s houses are environmentally suited to the climate of New Orleans and some can even elevate in times of emergency to rise above the floodwaters. Critics will tell you that it looks like these houses have landed from another planet and do not reflect the culture of New Orleans. This is correct, but not necessarily a bad thing. It is okay to move with the times, to acknowledge that we can improve on the past and to seize an opportunity when a visionary comes to town.

Finally, these houses are not donated. The residents receive help obtaining a mortgage and purchase their homes. There is no charity involved. These are not Brad Pitt’s houses. They belong to the people who  live there.

Brad Pitt has not only helped restore a neighborhood, he has helped restore pride. You can’t put a price on that. And I hear he’s a pretty good actor too!

Happy Birthday, Brad & Pele.

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Locked Down

As mentioned previously, my weekend blog post relates to what is happening in either my own or the writing world in general.

I have already blogged about John Locke, congratulating him for becoming the first self-published author to sell one million ebooks. Now Locke has decided to share his business model in a new book – How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! – and it is a great read for anyone in the business.

Locke is an entrepreneur and has already made his money in other ways. He seemed to take as much satisfaction from proving his sales model as he did from writing his novels. In fact when someone commented that it was easier for him because he chose a popular genre (detective), Locke went and wrote two Western novels (considered the most difficult genre to sell) and applied his model to marketing these books.

John Locke

 

I’m not going to give everything away here as Locke deserves your $3 for sharing his ideas. But I do want to focus on one important aspect that is the basis for any measure of success – identifying your target audience.

Who are the people that buy your books? I mean the audience who will consistently purchase, enjoy and recommend your book at the water cooler the following day. In May, a colleague of mine, JoAnn Smith Ainsworth led a workshop on creating a business plan for authors. She also stressed the need to identify your target audience and it was surprising how, even after JoAnn explained why this is important, so many of the participants were resistant to the assumption that everyone wants to read their novels.

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth writes historical romance.

I am spending quite some time defining the characteristics of my target audience and it is not easy. Who are the people that get excited about social injustices in fictional form? What is the profile of the reader drawn to characters who go through a transformational process?

If you have a moment, please help me out here. Whether you are one of my target audience or not, please leave a profile of the sort of person I should be focusing my marketing efforts in the comments below.

On another note: Happy Birthday, Dad – 86 years old today and can still out-foxtrot most on the dance floor.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Exciting News! Please Help.

Yesterday I learned that Left Coast Voices has been nominated for CBS San Francisco’s Most Valuable Blog 2011. This is a huge compliment for Tom Rossi, Roger Ingalls and myself and I want to take the opportunity to thank Tom and Roger for their hard work.

PLEASE VOTE for our blog in the awards (you can vote once a day) at http://sanfrancisco.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/vote/misc/

My good friend, Kymberlie, also has her blog in the reckoning (at the same link). You can check it out here. She has a landmark birthday on Sunday, so I’ll be voting for her that day. Happy Birthday, Kymberlie.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Happy Birthday Pele

I love the summer. We take a family vacation, my work slows, there seems more time to exercise, fish, write, and have quality time with my family. Almost everything I listed (apart from the latter, I do by myself. I work out, fish (usually), and write alone. But the highlight of this past summer was a fusion of two of these pastimes, and it was a treasured experience.

I often wonder how my sons perceive me. I spend long hours away from them during the week, and as they grow up, I find myself competing with their natural desire to hang out with their friends. In fact, during the week we will spend no more than two hours a day together and that is usually reduced to a frenzy of preparing and eating the main meal of the day, pushing them to complete their homework, bathe and go to bed at a reasonable time. They must resent my drive to write and promote myself as an author – an act that necessitates me being absent from home 1-2 evenings a week or on weekends.

So I was thrilled when my eldest son suggested, on the first evening of our vacation, that we write a book together. He devours fantasy novels and this was always going to be our common ground. I am not apathetic to a good sword fight, or a ride on the back of a dragon, and I have only read or watched Lord of the Rings about a dozen times.

It was amazing to sit in a mesh tent, surrounded by majestic redwoods and tap out a story on my noble white steed (a mac book by any other name). We disagreed here, he corrected my word choice there, and though it was me driving the story on, it never ceased to be a collaborative effort.

My sons are aware of my drive for social justice. I tell them when I have volunteered at the food bank, and have heard from other parents and teachers when my eldest has told them about my annual trip with students to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. I refrain (or try to) from lecturing him on such values as I refrain from pushing him to write. I figure that the best I can offer as a parent is to be a role model.  The choice must always be his.

More experienced parents tell me that I will learn to accept his choices as he grows up. I guess it makes it  special when our paths do fuse together, and all the more so when he makes the choice. I have no idea if our fantasy novel is any good. I doubt that Tolkien, Paolini or Terry Brooks need lose any sleep over our creation. But however good it is, it will always be very special for this father. Often the journey overshadows the destination.

Happy Birthday, Pele.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

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