Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gayle Brandeis, Book of Dead Birds and Fruitflesh

Gayle Brandeis

A few years ago I attended a writers convention here in southern California. There was an interesting mix of struggling and accomplished writers, speakers who ran the gamut from polished to eccentric. The best part of my day was not watching a drunk agent hit on a big chested writer, but meeting Gayle Brandeis.

I was immediately drawn to her. She is soft spoken and kind. Gayle has a huge heart and has been a supporter of my own writing over the past few years. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Gayle in their life. I love the fact that she gives so much to the community and is involved in charity work and committed to making a difference in the world. She is a mother, wife, writer and poet. And she likes sordid celebrity gossip, this is true.

I read The Book of Dead Birds not sure what to expect. Would it be about..dead birds? And how does one write about dead birds anyway? Gayle's poetic style moves the pages along and there is a deeper meaning to the title- you must read it. Fruitflesh is a tool for incorporating all of your senses when writing. Using fruits as a way of awakening your ablity to describe, your writing will come alive.

It took me a while to come up with questions for Gayle.. I wanted to get across her personality and do justice to her talent. Be sure to check out her website and read her blog.

What five words you would use to describe yourself?

Ooh, that's a tricky one! I could give you five words for any of my characters so easily, but describing myself is more of a challenge—I guess it can be hard for us to see ourselves clearly. Here goes (deep breath): creative, intuitive, goofy, loving, alive.

The critically acclaimed Book of Dead Birds is such a great novel. Were you nervous the title would push people away? Mentioning 'dead birds' could mean the book is about one of many different things....

People seem to either really love or really hate the title. I'm afraid it has scared some readers away; several people told me they were really upset when their book groups first selected the novel—they thought it sounded relentlessly dark, but then they were happily surprised to find that it's shot through with a lot of lightness, too.

I couldn't imagine another title for it, although after it was published, a friend suggested The Language of Birds, which I do like a lot, and a new Dutch edition came out as Mijn Moeders Vleugels—My Mother's Wings--which is nice, too. But The Book of Dead Birds still feels like the rightful title to me, even though it ruffles some people's feathers the wrong way. I'm so glad you liked the book!

I really admire your dedication to being active with political and social issues. Tell me about the issues that are important to you? What are your "pet" causes?

My heart bleeds all over the place—so many issues are important to me. I try to do whatever I can to nurture and promote social/environmental/political justice. I am especially drawn to issues that affect women and children around the world—as a writer, I feel I have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to give voice to those who are voiceless. I have worked as a literacy volunteer, a community organizer, an environmental activist, etc., and am constantly writing to my elected officials about issues that need to be addressed.

My work with CODEPINK: Women for Peace, has been especially gratifying—CODEPINK finds such fun and creative ways to speak to power, to create a more peaceful and sustainable future. I have done a lot of writing for them (including songs and chants!), and am eager to do more. I am also a founding member of the Women Creating Peace Collective, a local group dedicated to spreading peace and the arts throughout and beyond the community.

If you could teach one class to high school students, what would it be and why? I'm torn between teaching about money- how to balance a checkbook and create a budget and teaching about tolerance and kindness.

I wish someone had taught me how to deal with money in high school—that's a class I could never teach, since I'm still pretty clueless when it comes to finances! I am much better at teaching about tolerance and kindness; I actually have a chance to do that, through the work I do as writer-in-residence for the Mission Inn Foundation's Family Voices Project. I work with classes at five local high schools, helping kids research and write family stories. It is such a satisfying process.

Often, when I first enter the classrooms, these kids feel as if they don't have stories to tell, as if their families' stories aren't important. I work with them over the course of about three months, and by the time we're done working together, they usually have fully claimed their stories, their voices, and find pride in their families' history. I think it's very empowering for them. And they learn so much about each other over the course of our time together—often these kids have sat in classrooms together for years, but never got around to knowing anything personal about one another. As they begin to share their stories, they begin to understand one another more deeply, and a real sense of community grows within the group. It's quite amazing to behold.

Fruitflesh is so beautifully written and poetic. Give me a sample - describe to me your favorite fruit.

Thanks, Cindy! I would have to say my favorite fruit is the mango; just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Here is the mango meditation from the book:

Mangos are intense. If you hold a mango in your hand, it feels solid, sure of itself. The flesh inside is incredibly sexy, moist and slick and richly hued, with a bold, ambrosial, flavor. The mango is wild but centered, its seed supportive as a spine.

Slice a "cheek" off a mango. Bend the wedge of fruit back, like a neck arched in pleasure. Tear the sweet flesh away from the skin with your teeth. Devour the fruit until your whole face is slippery with its juice.

Let your writing be bold, sexy, unapologetic. Enter into it fully, with your whole body, without hesitation.

What is your favorite book, movie and song?

It's very hard to choose a favorite book—I have so many! I would say the book I return to for inspiration most often, though, is a book of poems: American Primitive by Mary Oliver. She writes about nature and the body in such a gorgeous way. I love tons of movies, too, but my favorite is probably Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire", which came out in the late 80s—it is so beautiful, and makes me feel blissed out, fully alive. My favorite song is definitely "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)" by The Talking Heads. It always hits me right in the heart. I went to see David Byrne at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, and when he sang that song, I sobbed all the way through.

Do you ever get jealous of the success of other writers? How do you handle the rejection part of being a writer? What about putting your work out there for people to pick apart and criticize?

To be a writer, one has to be open—open to inspiration, open to the creative flow. That openness can make us vulnerable, though—there is so much rejection in this business, so much harsh judgment, and it is very easy to take it all personally.
I have fallen prey to this—I have been hurt by rejection, been hurt by bad reviews (or no reviews from places that I had expected to review me), been envious of other writers who are reviewed everywhere, who sell gobs and gobs of books. But then I step back and try to gain some detachment. I try to remember how lucky I am to spend time with these characters, these words I love. I try to put my focus on the creative process, itself. Anything else that happens with publishing is a thrill, of course—a dream come true—but the writing itself provides the most lasting source of pleasure, and no one, no snarky reviewer, no superstar spotlight author du jour, can take that away.

What kind of mark do you want to leave on the world?

I don't think very often about what kind of mark I want to leave—I mostly want to focus on living well and justly and creatively here and now—but I do want to leave the world having made it a better place, even if my name is forgotten along the way. If I am remembered, I would want my legacy to be one of love—I want my work to show how much I loved the world, how much I loved language, how much I loved my family and friends. And I hope that love can have tendrils that will spread out and create more love, more peace, more inspiration.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Meghan Cleary, The Perfect Fit

As a lover of all things shoes, I could not wait to get my hands on The Perfect Fit, What Your Shoes Say About You. In fact, I pestered Meghan Cleary for weeks until this little gem arrived in my mailbox. I immediately sat down and read it, desperate to find out what my shoes said about me. What kind of signal was I sending to the world in my embroidered clogs? When I slipped on my ballet flat, was I putting forth the image of a school girl instead of a funky fashionista?

The book begins with a quiz to find out what kind of shoe are you? I was Down to Earth but after reading this book, I believe I need to allow my inner stiletto to break out. The Perfect Fit is a perfect treasure of a book for all of us who love the shoes and what girl doesn’t?

Meghan Cleary is a shoe expert, a fashionista with a keen eye for trends, and has appeared on several talk shows. She has written for Marie Claire among other publications and maintains a cool blog that you can check out by clicking here. Miss Meghan took some time to answer a few questions for me about what else- shoes!

Miss Meghan, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask your opinion on the ever popular but always ugly Uggs. Truly, who can get away with wearing these beasts?

In my humble opinion, UGGS have contributed to more people thinking it is ok to dress so down it appears you may be in your pajamas. I do understand the wish for comfort, I would just suggest another style—a nice designer trainer? A cute knee high flat leather riding boot?

The sweater boot is truly horrid. Your thoughts?

Again, there is a hunger for comfort, and especially in NYC where us girls have to hoof it through all sorts of winter weather elements, there is a hunger also for warmth! So I definitely get it. It’s not my style, but I can’t say I don’t understand the girls who go there! (I stand corrected. I forget how cold other places are when I'm in southern California with my flip flops. I will no long look at Uggs and the sweater boot with distaste!)

Here is my dilemma. I am 5’7 tall and appear to be towering over everyone when I wear high heels. But I love the way my legs look in the highest heels. What is a woman to do- forgo the heels?

Absolutely not, I’m 5’9” and my fave stilettos often put me in 6 ft range! To be a woman and be in a Stiletto is embracing your feminine power! See my book The Perfect Fit for more on this!

I wear clogs with jeans all the time. I have three pairs of clogs, (not the plastic utilitarian gardening clogs but cute ones, really) What other footwear options can I explore for this season?

This Fall has so many great styles to choose from—from the flat riding boot, to the penny loafer pump, to the lace up Annie Hall style oxford—you shouldn’t have any trouble at all mixing it up. Try any one of these to put a punch in your wardrobe! Especially in a bright color like red or cool texture like python!

If money was not an issue, where would you buy your shoes? And if you were a girl who had a teeny tiny budget for darling shoes, where would one very fashion conscious chica buy her footwear?

I would shop at Christian Louboutin everyday if money were no issue, and Bergdorf Goodman second floor as well as Jeffrey and Chuckies on the Upper East side and Diavolina in Los Angeles. For fashionistas who need to keep it real—go vintage: Cobblestones in the East Village, and Salvations Armies in the Midwest as well as Squaresville in Los Angeles.

This season, what is a must- have shoe or boot ?

Flat, flat flat boot. Riding boot, or the flat pointy toe boot made out of an exotic skin!
I’ve been looking all over for a distressed leather, lace up, two inch heeled boot. Please help!
Hmm. I am going to send you to your local flea market—I think you have a good shot at this style there, espec distressed.

Who do you think is the best dressed celebrity- would it be Gwen Stefani with her unusual and funky style, or a more demure and classic Gwyneth Paltrow? What is your opinion?

I really like both of their styles—Gwen is fab because she just goes all the way out there and has no qualms with doing so, and she has had such success with LAMB. You have to hand it to her!

-and Gwyneth because I love her easy boho mom daytime look. She shows you how easy it is to put together the right pieces and look chic.

What was your very first memory of a shoe? I recall a pair of Buster Brown t-straps which had a leathery smell and a rubber sole.

Baby blue, wedge espadrille sandals with embroidery on them. Fierce!

What was the first item you ever splurged on? Was it a Jimmy Choo, a Manolo, a Prada slipper?

Jimmys. Three and a half inch mauve taffeta stilettos with a turquoise brooch. Mmmmm!

Do you wear perfume, do you have a signature scent?

I like to mix it up. This summer I was a Fresh SUGAR devotee, but this Fall I am exploring deeper more musky scents—recently got into Bond Street perfumes as they opened a shop up on my street and they encourage you to try many. I am in a Vanilla-Musk Sandalwood one right now.

Do you over-pack when you go away? I normally have one suitcase to accommodate all my footwear, this is true.

Always! My biggest fear is getting caught without that one thing I feel like wearing in the moment when I am away! Footwear is a problem—I have taken to buying more neutral looks that will work well with everything and then brining those key pairs with me. I always end up throwing in my Louboutins and Jimmys in last minute “just in case” though and I end up having to sit on my suitcase to get it zipped closed!

Which fashion magazines should I be reading for the best advice on clothes and shoes? I currently subscribe to Lucky magazine.

LUCKY is great—the way they present everything is so easy and well-edited. L’Officiele is also a great one for accessories. I have been loving Elle lately too.

Do you find yourself constantly checking out other peoples footwear?

Oh yes. And then they look at me like I am a giant freak!! I try to be subtle but it’s hard!

What is your next project?

I am shopping my shoe show treatment around, working on a second book (Miss Meghan’s Guide to Men) am I qualified to write that? We’ll find out!!

Robyn Harding, The Journal of Mortifying Moments

What if you could get a glimpse of your future by writing about your past, specifically all the moments in your life when you wished the floor would open up and swallow you in one gulp? That’s the premise for the Journal of Mortifying Moments. Some of those moments the character, Kerry experienced cracked me up while others made me cringe in horror. They also made me think back to some of my less- than- stellar moments. We all have them...

This is author Robyn Harding’s debut novel and I’m bubbling over with excitement to interview her. Robyn is funny and bright and one of my favorite novelist friends. Remember Robyn’s name: she has another novel coming out in 2006. The trade paperback of The Journal of Mortifying Moments will be available on November 29th, the perfect holiday gift for your friends who love to read. Or better yet, buy it for yourself.

The idea to keep the journal was brilliant. Do you think Kerry needs to continue with her journal or did it do its job? And do you suggest anyone keep such a diary of their most horrendous moments to look back on with humor and/or horror? My highschool moments alone would be a twelve volume series.

Well, if I ever write a sequel, Kerry would obviously need to keep writing in her journal. But in reality, I think a journal like that would send you over the edge! I do think it’s fun and healthy to reflect on past disasters with humor and the insight that comes from age and experience. Sometimes our most humiliating, devastating experiences make the best stories. But writing those moments down in such explicit, painstaking detail? That would definitely lead to all sorts of self-medicating – like excessive drinking, shopping or cream cheese icing eating.

What is your most mortifying moment? Did any of Kerry's mortifying moments come from your own life?

My most mortifying moment happened when I was seventeen. I had a summer job working as a receptionist at a moving and storage company. The office was attached to an enormous warehouse. The place was crawling with men – most were fat, sweaty truckdrivers, but I had a little crush on this muscular young delivery guy. One day, I skipped out to the warehouse to deliver a phone message to one of the drivers. I was feeling all cute and seventeen, in my turquoise stirrup pants, Keds and matching zebra patterned top. (oh Robyn- no! Was your hair permed and teased too?)

There was a group of about seven guys standing around talking – including my crush. The phone in the office rang and I turned to run and answer it. I was kind of running on my tiptoes so I would look graceful or something, when my ankle completely gave out. I fell, very dramatically, flat on my face. I actually kind of skidded along the warehouse floor. I remember the guy I liked yelling, “Holy shit!” I was actually bleeding and covered in dirt. I got up as fast as I could and ran to the bathroom where I locked the door and cried. God . . . I need a bowl of icing now.

Most of the mortifying moments in the book are complete fiction, but the ski hill one is based on an incident with a friend of mine. She was very sweet to let me write about it. I also had a boyfriend break up with me right after I’d had my wisdom teeth removed. And I was never so overtly rejected during a game of truth or dare, but as an extremely unattractive youth (braces, glasses, bad perm) boys weren’t exactly lined up to kiss me. Other than that . . . all fiction. People always think that the ‘moments’ must have happened to me. They didn’t! Really! I don’t have a kinky sex life and I’ve never made out with my first cousin!

You were in advertising for a while- ever do one of those campaigns like you described in the book? Kids on crack- or high speed internet? I was laughing out loud!

I never worked on anything quite that extreme, but there was one campaign I remember. The client is irrelevant since the ad had absolutely nothing to do with the product. It was to be shown in movie theaters. It was a completely black screen with the sound of a kid, laughing maniacally, cocking a gun and then firing. This repeated about three times until there was a bigger crack of gunfire, and then this deep creepy laughter, like this monster had just shot the psycho kid. I was just like – what??? That creative team was really twisted.

How often do you get to downtown Vancouver to do some shopping? I love it there. Love the stores, love the people, everything. I suggest everyone take a trip to Vancouver at least one time. The under the street shopping malls are so cool. Do you like to shop?

I really love Vancouver too and feel so lucky to live here. I usually head downtown to do a big shop every time the seasons change. When I was younger, I wasn’t much of a shopper, but as I get older, I like it more and more! I seem to be developing a lot of bad habits as I age. I never used to drink hard liquor, either, but now I’ve become quite a fan of martinis. In a few years, I’ll probably be one of those martini-swilling, shopalohic women carrying a dog around in her purse. Maybe you could join me next time you’re in town?

Do you ever stay in your pajamas all day writing? Ever eat Lucky Charms straight from the box and pick out all the marshmallowy goodness before your kids can?

I wish! I’m talking about the staying in my pajamas all day and writing, not the Lucky Charms. I tried them once. Blech! I call them ‘Yucky Charms’.

What is in your cd player right now?

I think it’s ‘The Wiggles, Big Red Car’ album. It’s a goodie.
But when I go running (which is extremely rarely) my MP3 player is loaded with songs by the Gorillaz and The Killers – and of course, some guilty pleasures like old Duran Duran and The Spice Girls.

What do you consider to be your best feature? And do you tweeze your eyebrows or get them waxed?

Did you ask about my eyebrows because you knew I would say they are my best feature? I tweeze them a little, but they’ve always been pretty good. On my body, I’d have to say my arms are my best feature. I guess those are funny features to choose. I mean, it’s not like someone would ever say: “Check out the eyebrows and arms on her!”

Can you tell me what your next book is about?

Mais oui! My next book is called “The Secret Desires of a Soccer Mom.” Set in the suburbs, it is the story of Paige Atwell, a stay-at-home mom who has just sent her youngest child off to first grade. She’s feeling bored and unfulfilled with her life and her marriage, when her best friend, Karen, confesses she’s been having an affair.

Paige can’t help but feel a little envious. Karen seems so alive, so full of joi de vivre! That is, of course, until she’s found dead, lying in a pool of blood in her attached garage. Most of the neighborhood seems willing to accept that Karen’s death was an accident, but then they don’t know what Paige does. Trying to protect her friend’s good name, Paige decides to get to the bottom of Karen’s death on her own – investigating Karen’s husband and her ‘irresistible’ lover.
I’m so excited about this book and really happy with the final manuscript. Despite the ‘darker’ subject matter, it’s still really funny (if I do say so myself). “The Secret Desires of a Soccer Mom” will be out in June 2006.

What do you do in your free time?

I don’t have any! I have two kids, a dog and a husband. Okay, I’m always whining about being so busy but I do have a little time to myself. I take a martial arts class once a week (my jumping snapkick is a lethal weapon). And I like to get together with friends for coffee, dinner or drinks. I’m a really social person and being a writer can be a little isolating. Other than that, I mostly just veg out on the couch and watch TV. That Martha Stewart Apprentice show is really good!

If you won the lottery, how would you spend the money?

I’m going to sound like such a phony lame-ass but I would give a ton of money to charity. Really – I would buy a house with a view of the ocean and then I would give most of it away. I’d divide it between foreign and local charities. Id like to support AIDS affected children in Africa, and Vancouver’s downtown eastside is a real mess – full of homeless junkies. And of course, there are all the cancer charities and other diseases. God, I’d have to win big! But I’ll never win the lottery because I don’t buy tickets. I don’t even want to win the lottery. I’d rather be a rich, bestselling author! (Amen to that sister!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ingrid Newkirk, Making Kind Choices

Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA

The day I received Ingrid Newkirk’s book, Making Kind Choices, was the day I brought my puppy to the vet and learned she was deathly ill. The timing was really perfect- I was trying to save the dogs life, and through this book I started learning how I can do more than save one animal.

I never knew much about PETA or exactly what the group stood for. I had an image in my mind about radical zealots holding signs and throwing paint and sending evil messages to fur lovers like Jennifer Lopez. But this book helped me view People for Ethical Treatment of Animals in a new light. Ingrid’s writing is thoughtful and kind, her words are gentle and Making Kind Choices was very inspiring to me, hopefully it will be for you too.

I urge you to pick up the book or visit the Peta website and learn how to make easy changes in your life to help make the world a better place for our generation and the next. A big Thank You to Ingrid for taking the time to answer my questions.

PETA has a bit of a reputation as being a radical organization: images of outraged people tossing cans of red paint onto fur coats come to mind. What would you like to say to the people who think PETA is extreme?

I would say look at our website, Peta and you'll see what we really do, think, and say. It's all about promoting kindness and finding alternatives to every cruel act. We do fun, sexy, gimmicky things like "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" and dress up as animals and so on, but it is an urban myth that we throw paint on people. We never have.

This myth got a big boost when Joan Rivers had paint sprayed or thrown on her coat on a NY street and went on national shows saying "It was those Peta people." But we're good friends with Joan now (her daughter posed last year for our Naked series, and Joan was proudly at the unveiling of the poster) and she understands. The closest thing we've come to that, and it's a big stretch, was when one of our people jumped on the runway of a fashion show (something we routinely do) and held up his own paint covered red hands with the sign, "There's blood on your hands for killing animals." We urge people never, ever to let anyone in fur pass by, but that can mean ever-so-politely handing them one of our "Meet Your Fur Coat's Original Owner" cards or just saying "Please don't wear animal skins."

How do you choose which celebrities to feature in your anti-fur ads? I'm not a celebrity but I would rather wrap my body in cotton any day than drape myself in mink or wear chinchilla eyelashes.

We've featured such a range of celebrities (many of whom you can see on furisdead.com) from stars like Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger to soap opera actors, young musicians, models, drag queens, singers, you-name-'em. Most people are appalled by the cruelty that goes into fur, the theft of 25-100 animals' very lives for a bit of clothing that makes you look like a caveperson and shows you have no heart.

Some celebs contact us (that's how we got Pam Anderson), others we approach. Many are fantastic, from Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan (who have been with us from the start, helping with everything from flood rescue to fur) to Jacquin Phoenix (who insisted on non-leather cowboy boots for his latest film about Johnny Cash); I love them for sticking up for animals.

What is one task people can do every day to help make the world a cleaner and more friendly place? Maybe if we break down the big goal of trying to save the environment/animals into bite sized pieces, we can make a difference.

You are asking one of the world's most longwinded women for ONE thing? There are so many, and they fit every lifestyle. Perhaps the most important is something everyone can do, because everyone eats. If you are not already vegan or vegetarian, remember that non-violence begins with how what you eat got onto the plate, that most of us couldn't stand for one minute being in a slaughterhouse without a blindfold, a nose plug and ear muffs, that intensive animal farming is not only cruel but pollutes our waterways with the enormous amount of waste run off; that meat production is far more energy intensive than raising fruits and veggies and grains, and that your arteries will thank you if you choose to make even one main meal vegan. We have the resources, the cookbooks, the free recipes, the free vegetarian starter kit for you.

Giving up meat is a difficult goal, but one I'm willing to try. What would you say to someone who is taking the first steps to being a vegetarian?

It's easy as pie if you keep your motivator (cruelty, environment, health) firmly set in your mind at the start, and then, later, you won't want to go back. You'll look at meat with the disgust now reserved for road kill!

It's hard to imagine, but the average person probably only cooks about 10 different meals: i.e. pasta on Mondays, chicken patties on Tuesdays, and so on. So, get your hands on a veg cookbook or the free recipes in the Vegetarian Starter Kit (download from petaeats.org or goveg.com or peta.org) and find ONE recipe or TWO, that you like. And try the tips like buying soy sausage crumbles from your supermarket freezer case to substitute in a recipe that calls for ground meat. Switch to ice-cold SILK (soy milk) instead of milk. Some things you'll find delicious instantly, some you'll hate, as with any new cuisine, but if it's marginal, remember taste buds take about three weeks to adjust. Remember going from whole milk to skim?

I want to mention the www.sharetheworld website. I just ordered my own kit and am really excited to bring the packet to my local school and share with the kids. How else can we get children involved in a gentle and encouraging way- without scaring anyone in the process-?

Peta has a wonderful kids (8-13) magazine called GRRR! which is free for the asking. We have a kind teachers network to exchange lesson plans, free alternatives to dissection (including a fun video about how to spare frogs and cats, narrated by Alicia Silverstone), and we have a book I wrote called "Kids Can Save the Animals" available on petamall. Also, young 'uns should look at petakids.com and rebellious teens can go to peta2.org.

I was stunned to read how gelatin is made using skin, tendons, ligaments, from cows and pigs. Also shocking was the other products which contain animal parts (cosmetics, foods, vitamins). What is the most upsetting thing you have learned since being involved with Peta?

Oh, that's difficult, because when I started, I didn't realize that the cruel veal industry is a direct result of the milk business. That the little calf is torn away from his loving mother at just one day or a few hours or his birth to be stuck in a dark crate, not because we want veal, but because we want to steal the milk Nature intended for him and sell it in the form of "cheese on everything," milk, ice cream and so on. But, learning about how vicious lab workers can be to those in their charge, running monkey and mice Abu Ghraibs really, was a real eye-opener too and I was so relieved to realize there are health charities like Easter Seals I can give to that don't torture animals; cosmetics and household products I can buy that aren't tested in animals' eyes.

Yes, I want to make changes and get involved with Peta, at the same time I feel like a hypocrite because I still have chicken in my freezer and leather shoes in my closet. I wonder if others feel the same way..where do we start? And what can I, as one person, do to help?

I always say "No one is the Buddha, not even the Buddha was the Buddha!" meaning that we are all learning and changing. Every act of kindness, every step in the right direction is fabulous. You may help one homeless person but indulge in something extravagant for yourself, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have helped at all! Keep learning, keep walking, keep changing, help as much as you can. My book, which you can borrow or buy, "Making Kind Choices" offers hundreds of easy ways to help, from choosing a coffee from a company that doesn't poison birds and helps workers to how to donate your outdated reading glasses and books, to learning why not to buy a purebred dog from a breeder or pet shop.

What would you like to see happen within the next year?

More and more and more people letting their hearts and minds speak to them about why we must not tolerate injustice in any form, why we must reject violence in all forms, seeing how complete we become when we live by our principles.