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Wednesday, September 28, 2011 0 comments

Reading With Writers at the SCWC


   Lounging around two linen-covered banquet tables, Thriller looked over his shoulder while Comedy laughed and Young Adult chewed over vampires during a drama-filled weekend at the recent
Southern California Writer's Conference.

   One of two annual SCWC events, this 2.5 day conference was held late September in Newport Beach, (the other takes place every February in San Diego.)

   Spending quality time with others who “get” my passion for writing was well worth the price of admission, no, scratch that, it was priceless.

   There was no need to explain why I write – only compliments and suggestive comments on what I write.

   And, no one ran away or excused themselves from the table because of that one time when they’d heard how writers can be lonely creatures who live in dank, dark basements.

   Another important part of the conference, at least in my humble experience, was meeting other struggling writers and listening to the successes of the (gasp) Published Authors.
   It was great to meet people like
John DeSimone (Director of the Orange County Writer’s Conference); Ara Grigorian, a VP with Technicolor and Jay Antani, another stay-at-home dad who thought raising a son and writing from home would lead to the immediate publication of “The Next, Great American Novel.” We both thought that was going to be a piece of cake...

   Yuh, right, the only piece of cake I ate was humble pie – after I realized how hard it is to keep an infant happy/content/awake/asleep/full/clean.

   With dozens of ninety-minute workshops, presentations and lectures scheduled each day, my favorites were the "read and critique" sessions, especially the “Rogues.”

   If you’ve never heard of a read and critiques, the premise is as simple as it sounds: Take about five pages of your work, give a CliffsNotes version of where in the story you’re going to read, say what genre it is, and off you go.

   When you’re finished, it’s generally time to grab your pen and start taking notes, as your fellow writers first offer words of encouragement (you hope) and then give their suggestions where the story could be improved.

   Instead of the usual ninety minutes during the day sessions, the rogue read and critiques began at 9 p.m. and didn’t end until the last person’s sample of work was dissected and discussed. While I missed the all-time record of 6:02 a.m. by several hours on both nights of the conference, the two daytime critiques I attended and the two rogues were a great chance to speak (and hear) the words I wrote spoken by someone else (not related to me.) Then, there's the feedback.

   As we all have opinions, this feedback can run the gamut of “I didn’t get it,” to “I really got it and want more.” The best part is when there’s a collective agreement that yes, your “baby” is fine and your story is going in the “write” direction.

   During rogues, every moderator has their own ground rules and I wanted to offer a big thanks (for their time and efforts) to
Judy Reeves; Marilyn Friedman and Matt Pallamary who led the various merry (then tired) band of readers.

   This might seem like a no-brainer, but as an aspiring author, I one hundred percent recommend that writers of all levels attend at least one writer’s conference. Don’t use distance as an excuse, and if cost becomes an issue, turn it into a pet project and save for the chance to do the write thing.

  As always, I value your time and appreciate the few minutes we spend together. Mahalo and regards,


“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

– Queen Lili‘uokalani (1838–1917) the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 0 comments

To Catch an LA Angel

My family and I were lucky to catch a Freeway Series game at Angels Stadium this past July 3, (the first time I’d been to the ballpark in more than a year.)
We had fifteen in our group, but I was the only one who waited (in the sun) to get into the ballpark as soon as the gates opened.
I love walking around the empty concourses and sharing a word or a smile with staff and vendors who have yet to be frazzled from hours of serious capitalism.

By about 11:45 a.m., I was standing about twenty rows up, adjacent to the bullpen – in Section 103 or 102 – and was soaking up the scene
I was also acting like a girl as I squealed – a little – as I saw players making their way onto the field, or recognized those already busy doing warm-ups.
A few people looked around to see who was squealing, and I shamelessly pointed at my then-fifteen-month-old son, blaming the aforementioned noise on “something he’d eaten for breakfast.”
Anyway... so I'm standing there, holding my son, when one of the Angel relief pitchers, Scott Downs (#37) caught my eye. He held up one arm – telling me to get ready – pulled the arm back and chucked a baseball toward ME!
Needless to say, I tried to one-handedly catch aforementioned Rawlings artifact, but the bundle of joy in my left arm (I’m a leftie) meant I soooo missed catching the ball
it wasn’t even close
and another fan snatched MY, er, the ball for his own family memory.
Now it gets interesting... Downs saw I was jumping up and down
like a girl again...my ball! my ball! Oh, at this stage, I must point out I’m forty-two and about as bald as a scuffed baseball.
Crushed, I look at Corey to say “there you go, son, that’s the one that got away,” when I realized Downs had gone back to the bullpen to get another ball.
No, he’s not…
He catches my eye, asks if I'm ready (with the practice throw of his arm)
No, seriously, he must be acknowledging someone else.
I whip around and there’s no one in my immediate sphere of influence
it’s a very small sphere, more like a tiny circle
and have the awareness to move my son to my other arm.
No, c’mon, seriously, he’s not going to give me a second shot, is he??
Mr. Scott Downs, my now-favorite Angel sailed the ball directly into my hand where it landed on top of our television,
This is significant, because we’re a military family, who just moved to Hawaii and there is nothing else on top of the television – everything is still in boxes – I justify this by telling myself we have three years to unpack.

I sometimes wonder why Downs threw the ball to me

Was it because I was holding my son and this is something he can relate to, or was it because Downs saw I was wearing the #34 jersey of Nick Adenhart? Adenhart is the young Angels pitcher who was killed, along with his friends, Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson, only hours after he pitched his first game of the 2009 season. (I wear the jersey in honor of Nick and only at Angels Stadium.)
I don't know, of course, but I'll be forever grateful to Scott Downs, and hope to get the chance to tell him in person this coming Sunday. I’ve got tickets to the game against the Oakland Athletics (following the end of the Southern California Writer's Conference in Newport Beach.
If anything happens, I’ll be sure to post it. If not, I look forward to the day when my son is old enough to understand the significance of an Angel’s kind gesture.
UPDATE Sept. 27: Although Scott didn't have a good game, and the Angels lost the game, he'll always be welcome in our home:)

As always, I value your time and appreciate you spending a few minutes of your day with me. Mahalo and regards,

“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
Queen Lili‘uokalani, (1838–1917), the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 3 comments

Raising 2 Kids, 1 Homeschooler & a Baby Blog

In an earlier post, I mentioned a couple of reasons why I’m doing the blog, and wanted to share another big motivation.

Things often get a wee bit hectic at Casa Koopmans, and though I’m mad busy as a stay-at-home dad/rookie homeschooler to our boys (four and eighteen months) I’m constantly thinking about writing.

Regular posting gives me a great opportunity to siphon some of the creative juices swirling around my addled brain, and I must say mahalo to you for reading. It’s like this blog is an alternative medical treatment for my condition – I’m calling it “parentitis.”

For example, I’m sitting here writing (and listening to Samuel Barber’s classic Adagio for Strings.) We don’t have an official study (yet), as many of the boxes from our recent move
two months ago
remain unpacked (yet.) This means I sit here, on the perch of my temporary writing “sanctuary”
aka “our dining room table”
and look not over an exotic Hawaiian island drenched in a golden sunset; but a kitchen island with pots and pans dripping with soapy water.

Sadly, I’m not going to put quotations around temporary. I know I’ll be sat in the same spot when the movers come and get us in three years.

(Yet) even though it’s 2:04 a.m., Hawaii Time on a Tuesday morning, I’m feeling good.– the kids are sleeping and my wife has to be up early, so I hope to get some good writing in. It’s been a day or two since my last chance, so after grabbing my wooden in-box, I rub my hands together.

Might I find something inspirational? Do I need to return a terribly important phone call?

Nah, there's nothing there. instead I plough through layers of discarded notes, 3x5 cards, commissary receipts, my son’s yellow golf ball, (“Look, Papa, it BOUNCES really high on the tiles!”), several writing pads, pens, a pair of scissors
(note to self when reading posted blog: Have you moved the scissors already?)
and one of those plastic electrical plug thingies meant to stop kids from sticking a pen (or a scissors) into an outlet as they scream, “Don’t taze me, bro.”
(Note 2.0: Move pens, too. Buy more thingies.)

Before we moved to Hawaii, I was “just” a stay-at-home dad chasing my book, er, my boys, around the house.

Now, with our third boy scheduled to be born in late December or early January 2012, we’ll have our own rendition of “Hawaii 5-0,” and I plan to upgrade my official title to “stay-at-home: mad?”

I’m only kidding, in fact, I can’t wait to say “book ‘em, Daddo” at least a hundred times… safe in the knowledge that my wife will again cringe, shake her head and tell the boys to keep moving:
“Yes, Papa’s humor is a little strange sometimes… and it’s OK if Papa walks ahead, just a little…."

Please don’t get me wrong – I ain’t complaining – no, this is the most fun I’ve had in donkey’s years – but good grief, Charlie Brown, there’s little time for my daytime television experience – and the new Fall Season has just started.
What about my soaps? Who’s going to take care of them? I can’t believe that Regis is retiring. What’s Kelly gonna do?

My point is: (And this was a hilarious moment when it hit me across the back of the neck,) when our oldest boy weighed four pounds, I truly, truly believed I’d have so much time that I’d easily write the NEXT, GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL while my infant slept all day long.
Well, except for the ten minutes, or so, that he’d need to eat, burp or poop.

Oh dear Lord, how you left the blinders on! I thought this was going to be easy?
Easy? There’s a reason why I’m a stay-at-home mad?
But, I wouldn’t change anything for the world…. I’d rather be changing diapers than sipping margaritas at happy hour.
OK, OK, my fingers are crossed (hnnnn, its mush harter to type…)

On a final note, I am giving a shout out to fellow blogger, Daina Rustin, (http://www.mystictreehouse.com/) who recently became my first follower who’s not a friend, relative or me.
As always, I appreciate you reading my blog, and hope it was time well spent.
Mahalo and aloha,

“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
Queen Lili‘uokalani (1838–1917) the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.
Saturday, September 17, 2011 1 comments

Aloha - & the Angry Birds


Last week, I was driving with the kids in the back of the van, but instead of laughter (or tears) all I heard were “angry birds” being hurled from one end of my smart phone to the other.

If you haven’t discovered the “Angry Birds” app yet – enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts…

Situated second in line at a quiet traffic light near our home, I gave my son the usual two-minute warning that I’d be taking the “electronic pacifier” as soon as we pulled into the garage.

Head down, no response - no surprise - our eldest has already won the 2011 award for "selective hearing."

I was about to repeat myself when more angry birds hit something and an awaited bonus was awarded. Instead of Braveheart’s sword lifted in victory, my son held aloft a pink-encased Motorola phone (my wife's, I hasten to add.)

“Look, Papa!” was followed by a huge smile that warmed the cockles of my heart to no end.

“Good job, buddy,” I said to my son who continued to beam at me from the rear view mirror. Dropping my eyes, I was immediately slighted when the sedan in front of me didn’t screech away at a high rate of speed as soon as the green showed up for work.

The driver didn’t move for at least several seconds, but when he (or she) realized the light had changed, a hand popped up to wave its apology just as my right hand headed toward the horn – and it was then that my inner voice said “Hang on, what about the aloha spirit?”

“The aloha spirit?”

“Yes, the aloha spirit, where one realizes we’re living on an island paradise and things happen on Hawaii time and honking on the horn is a big no-no.”

I’m a stay-at-home dad with little adult interaction between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. so chatting to myself out loud isn't that big of a deal – it’s the petty arguments that bother me.

Needing a little more clarification, I looked into the meaning of aloha, and here’s what I found in a posted article at http://www.to-hawaii.com/

“The literal meaning of aloha is ‘the presence of breath’ or ‘the breath of life.’ It comes from ‘Alo,’ meaning presence, front and face, and ‘ha,’ meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others.

Aloha is a Hawaiian symbol. Its meaning goes beyond any definition you can find about it in the dictionaries. In Hawaii, you hear aloha all the time and you are treated with aloha everywhere.”

That is indeed correct. Upon checking the O'ahu Yellow Pages, I found it comforting to know I could learn a little culture at Aloha Ukulele while working for the Aloha Wedding Planners and should I ever get into trouble for mumbling to myself, it’s nice to know that someone from Aloha Legal Services or Aloha Bail Bonds will be there to help.

My point? I think we can all benefit from a little aloha in our lives… it’s already made an impact in my life (you should have seen my reaction when someone honked at me a few days later... I was in disbelief and shock: “You honked at me…”)

In a few years, we'll head back to the mainland, but I'm hopeful the aloha spirit will come along for the ride – and if that happens, oh boy, I'm really going to get to work on those angry birds.


As always, I value your time and appreciate you spending a few minutes of your day with me. Mahalo and regards,


“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands. (1838–1917)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 2 comments

Building Platform - Wood if I Could


So why am I writing this blog?

Source: Photobucket.com by toddfisher29

Ohh, and that last one, “building a platform,” that’s one I need to concentrate on as it hasn’t worked out too good for me in the past.

Once upon a time, we lived near Orlando, Fla., and I built, with the help of a few friends, a platform in my backyard.

Well, it was more like an irregular-shaped deck, (similar to the picture) but whatever, it could have been a contender.

Years later, my beloved platform/deck was the first thing I thought of while attending the 2011 Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego. As I wandered lonely as a cloud, I heard writers, editors and agents chatting in clumps and groups, and it seemed that many were immersed in “platform this” and “platform that” type of conversations.

Dang, there’s more builders than writers here; am I in the right place?

Oh, shoot, hang on. My dear Mom is calling from Dublin…

Hi Mom, I’m writing a blog… it’s short for a “Web log,”… yes Mom… it’s for my writing…yes Mom, writing is a real job… no Mom, I didn’t sell the platform for firewood; we tore it down when the new people didn’t want an odd-shaped thing sitting there with the sprinklers still going off underneath…no Mom… I never knew there was a sprinkler underneath the platform…huh… no Mom, you can read my blog whenever, they won’t charge your minutes for reading my latest post… you will read it? Mahalo! God bless you? Huh? No, I didn’t sneeze… no Mom, I don’t have a cold, Mahalo means “thanks” in Hawaiian… no it doesn’t mean “trashcan,” it means thanks. So you’ll follow me and read my blog… you’ll follow me, but only after 9 p.m. when the minutes are free...OK, Mom… yes, I love you, too.)

Sorry about that. Anyway, one of my friends and an old colleague from my days as a staff writer at the Hometown News – you know who you are, Matt O’Hern, (mattohern.com) – suggested I write a humor blog, and I’m not sure if that’s how this will turn out – I’m going to let the blog lead the way – but I do hope regular readers will return looking for a few laughs, or at least a wry grin.

And that would be great, ‘cos humor sneaks out of my head like a helium balloon escaping out the back of a car.

My point? I’m looking forward to the journey and absolutely appreciate anyone who decides to follow this blog… in fact I have a plan…

Oh oh….

The first 901,367 followers of this blog will receive a FREE! dust jacket when my book project is published. (And it will be, one day.)


As always, I value your time and appreciate you spending a few minutes of your day with me.

‘Till we meet again, mahalo and aloha,

To be honest, I’m an author-in-training, and I need to write for many, varied reasons (honing the craft; writing daily; verbal diarrhea; getting my name out there; building a platform, etc.)
Sunday, September 11, 2011 1 comments

9/11 - Memories of a Former Foreigner


The thing I remember most about 9/11 is how selfish I felt - at the very beginning.

September 11th was supposed to be the day I paid my debts and made some serious money. I clearly remember the last thing I said as my balding head hit the soft pillow on the 10th: "Tomorrow is going to be a great day, man, tomorrow is going to be a great day."

Source: Anthony Grimley
Five months prior to 9/11 and new to California, I had met several fellow Irishmen at a pub or six, which networked into an interview with a starched suit who looked me up and down to see if I could sell gold coins.

"I can sell a Yankees hat in Boston, or a Cowboys jersey in New York, surely I can sell a little coin over the phone?" I said, full of the optimism of the uninformed American sports fan.

My new boss didn't really care. I'd earn a bare stipend for a couple of months, and then work on one hundred percent commission, so no skin off his nose.

They call the big investors "whales," and it took five months of living off credit cards to reel two in. One lived in New York; the other was in Jersey. I arranged great deals with both retired men; deals that culminated on Monday the 10th, and happy as a pig in a blanket, I later went for a few drinks with the boys, having promised my whales that they'd receive the official paperwork via fax before noon EST Tuesday.

That's the only reason I was up at 5:50 a.m. PST, but as soon as I saw the plane hit the second tower just after 6 a.m. my time, I knew the deals were done - and so was I. (I had no clue how bad it would be - did anyone?)

I wallowed in pity for about thirty-five minutes until I heard another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Driving to work in my new, unpaid-for Mustang, I jumped up as far as my seatbelt would allow, and let out a scream of hurt and anger I hope my ears will never again endure.

As an immigrant with naturalization papers in process, I had no doubt that the attack was on my country (I swore in July 3, 2003,) and my people.

In October 2001, I tried joining the USAF, but the recruiter told me a 19-year-old's pay "ain't going to take care of the credit problems belonging to a 31-year-old."

On 9/11, as always, I'll wear my Liz Claiborne WTC shirt that I bought 'cos the Statue of Liberty looks cool in the forefront (it was 2002 before I "saw" the Twin Towers for the first time.) I will also reflect on how I awoke thinking only about me, but ended the day thinking only about "U.S." and the thousands whose lives had been destroyed by hate and fear.

May the good God bless the souls of all those lost on 9/11, and Lord, please continue to protect those who, with a servant's heart, always run into harms way while we scream to get the hell out of there.
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