Monday, April 28, 2014

Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, Failure and The Drive To Keep Creating

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert was once an "unpublished diner waitress," devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the astounding, popular success of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, she found herself identifying strongly with her former self and former life.
With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple—though hard—way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.
This is a short, inspiring talk for anyone facing challenges in life—it's not just for writers!

Visit to watch more inspirational videos

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Almost Perfect

Is it ever too late to dream? Author Diane Daniels Manning explores the implications in Almost Perfect, a touching novel about an older woman who feels her time has passed and a 14 year-old boy, with mild autism, whose dogged determination demonstrates how one is never too old—or limited—to continue to have goals and aspirations. 

The story begins as Elizabeth "Bess" Rutledge has all but given up her livelihood, serving as one of America's top breeders of Standard Poodles, and her dreams of someday winning Westminster, the premiere dog show in all the world. Bess closes up her once-famous kennel, "Umpawaug," located in rural Connecticut and keeps only two dogs: McCreery, one of her aging champions, and his rambunctious, handsome son, Breaker.

At the same time, Benny, a lonely boy who lives nearby—unhappily, with his neglectful father and stepmother and a distant mother whose affection Benny fervently craves—longs to have a dog to keep him company. When the boy with "curly, reddish hair and baby smooth cheeks" accidentally discovers Umpawaug Kennel and meets and falls in love with McCreery and Breaker, his desire to have a dog grows even stronger. His father remains adamant against the prospect. But when Benny learns of Bess's history with dog shows, he decides that if he can learn to become a dog handler and ultimately show Bess's champions at Westminster, he might finally win the attention of his self-centered mother.

Set-in-her-ways, headstrong Bess initially resists Benny's proposition. But with Benny's relentless prodding and determination—along with the encouraging support of Bess's sister, son and a counselor from the special school Benny attends—Bess softens and an unlikely partnership-mentorship forms. 

Can these two, vastly different people help each other fulfill their respective dreams? Can Bess really put her faith in Benny? Is he capable of becoming a dog handler and facing the stresses of learning how to show Bess's beloved poodles?   

Diane Daniels Manning has crafted a sensitive, hope-filled story about a friendship that slowly blooms in and out of dog show arenas, while also offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the suspenseful world of show-dog competition. McCreery and Breaker may be at the heart of this moving novel, but they also serve the larger theme of how dogs and canine companions often bring unlikely people together, forming life-changing bonds that can resurrect and heal the human spirit.
Beltor,  $9.99 paperback, 9780578136394 , 342 pp
Publication Date: January 29, 2014
To order this book via AMAZON link HERE

Note: Up to 100% of the author's profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children. Visit the author's website ( to learn more

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cristina Mittermeier: Images That Matter

The Artist's and Writer's Life

Cristina Mittermeier believes that the range of her experiences--growing up in Mexico, working as a marine biologist and biochemical engineer, raising children, writing, traveling the world, a career in conservation--all serve to enrich her photography. She says her path to the craft was "a happy accident" that has allowed her better to communicate all her "concerns, passions and hope for a better planet."
In Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe and Inspire (see the review below), Mittermeier has collected photographs from around the world, images captured by a diverse selection of renowned nature and wildlife photographers. As founder and former president of the International League of Conservation Photographers and one of Sony's Artisans of Imagery (2008), she believes that photography can cross barriers, cultures and languages. She ardently advocates for its use as a means to encourage others to protect and preserve the beauty and natural resources of our planet.
You've spent the past 20 years focused on earthly conservation. Where does that passion come from?
I suppose it is self-preservation. Our planet's natural resources are the foundation of our livelihoods and conserving them is the only way to ensure a continued quality of life for all. Setting aside areas for protection and building boundaries that protect species and landscapes are the best tools we have. Photography informs and encourages both.
What inspired the four themes/sections of Sublime NatureAwe, Grace, Joy, Peace?
For me, there is nothing more sublime than nature. The themes of the book evolved as I read the writings of the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, who, in 1764, made an attempt to record his thoughts on the mental state of an observer of nature in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. He held that the sublime was of three kinds: the noble, the splendid and the terrifying. These aspects gave base to the themes as the National Geographic team and I collaborated. We selected four great emotions of the human spirit as elicited by nature: hope, awe, joy and peace. We assigned a color to each emotion and then we set out to find images that fell into our themes and our color scheme in order to create a visual journey.
How did you choose which photographs to showcase in the book? What do you feel constitutes a truly great photograph?
When I look at an image, I always pose a question to myself: What happens to the character in the picture, be it a person or a bear, when nature and humanity collide? I want images to leave a door open for the viewer to articulate an answer. In the search for images for Sublime Nature, I further wondered: If I could visit that world (the image in a photograph) and be held there in its arms, could this image help me invite others inside, so that maybe they, too, could be held there? I wanted the photographs included in this book to beckon and inspire others the same way they have affected me.
In conservation photography, a great image is one that can tell a story. I am interested in images that better capture the full, complex reality of human beings and our surrounding universe.
In the end, the best images are a marriage of beautiful art, conservation substance and science. They often become iconic, and they always become a part of our collective psyche informing society about our natural world. The best images are a two-way street between me, the viewer and the rest of the world.
A late afternoon bath turns into a joyful water fight in the waters of the Iriri River, Brazil. (photo: Cristina Mittermeier)
Have innovations in photography changed your craft?
Innovations (like better sensors, faster frame rates, smarter cameras) can only help photographers become more effective. But the hard work of understanding our universe and aiming our cameras at subjects that really matter will not change with technology.
Which is your photographic medium of choice--digital or film?
I love digital. I did my time on film, and I cannot think of a single reason to ever shoot it again. It is the photographer, not the camera, not the film, that makes the picture.
How do you think images such as those in Sublime Nature can save the environment, animals and landscapes?
I hope that, at the end of my career, people know I made and presented images that mattered. Photographs, especially when they are iconic, make us pause, reflect and internalize information in a way like no other medium. Images require no translation, and photography has the power to inform, encourage and inspire the protection of our planet's natural and cultural treasures. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Note: This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/28/14), click HERE

Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe & Inspire

Sublime Nature is the first volume in a new series from the National Geographic Society seeking to publish books that confirm a commitment to "the conservation of our extraordinary planet's natural resources." In this first installment, Cristina Mittermeier, a marine biologist turned photographer, has assembled a breathtaking collection of stunning images from an array of wildlife and environmental photographers who capture the beauty of nature in a way she hopes will "awaken broad-based social consciousness."

The book is divided into four parts: Awe, Grace, Joy and Peace. Each section begins with a brief poetic, personal introduction by Mittermeier. Along the way, inspirational quotes from renowned writers, naturalists, scientists and artists serve the four themes. The accompanying 100-plus scenic images from various locales range from landscapes, wildlife, flowers, waterways, local natives and natural wonders of the world. There are penguins atop dramatic icebergs in Antarctica, striking waves of sand on arid Moroccan dunes, a fisherman casting his line into a coral inlet in Indonesia, a graceful ballet of bottlenose dolphins in Peru and a dusky gloom trapped amid rocky chambers in Arizona.

Mittermeier is committed and passionate in her belief that photography can influence the fate of nature. The visuals she has selected are lively and thought-provoking in subject matter—brilliant compositions bursting with vivid color and light. The impact of the photographs paired with profound words is bound to encourage others to find meaning, appreciation and a greater respect for a vulnerable planet facing continued wildlife extinction, climate change and diminishing natural resources.
National Geographic Society,  $35.00 hardcover, 9781426213014 , 224 pp
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/28/14), click HERE