Friday, August 16, 2019

Author publishes third book – donates time to facilitate annual PROMPT writing workshop

By Lorraine Glowczak

The first time I met New York City author, Diana Altman, I was a participant in the PROMPT writing workshop hosted by the Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA) in the fall of 2016 which she facilitated on a donation basis. Altman, who makes her second home on the shores of Sebago Lake in Raymond with her husband, will donate her time once again for RAA’s third annual writing event to be held at the Nathaniel Hawthorne Home, Hawthorne Road in Raymond on Sunday, August 18 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Altman is the author of “Hollywood East: Louis B. Mayer and the origins of the studio system”, a work of nonfiction based upon her knowledge and study – and perhaps more importantly, her father, Al Altman’s experience as a talent scout for MGM studios. Her father discovered 1930s and 40s big screen actors such as Jimmy Stewart, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner and more.

Her second book, “In Theda Bara’s Tent”, is a work of fiction about a young orphan who makes his way into the growing movie business during the silent film era.

https://www.smithwick-ins.com/Her latest novel, “We Never Told” is also a work of fiction that is set in the suburbs of New York City beginning in the 1950s about the well-to-do Adler family. The father, Seymour, is in the Hollywood business and discovers big name talents; rubbing shoulders with famous actors. The mother, Violet, a glamourous and strikingly beautiful woman who has known nothing but wealth, seems to have it made – 1950s style. However, despite the fact she has it all, she is not happy and she tries to break free from the mainstream social standards of the time – as well as the distinguished society with elitist values that binds one from living fully and freely.

Violet does something unthinkable during the time of high ideals and morals. She divorces her husband. The children, Joan and Sonya, are caught in the middle of this broken home…. eventually making a promise to their mother, keeping a secret that is deeper than they realize. The novel ends with an unsuspecting twist.  

I was honored when Altman reached out to me to review “We Never Told”. Officially published this summer on June 11, I couldn’t wait to read her latest novel. I was quickly swept away and vanished into a world of illusion for a few days into the home of the Adler family. All it took was the first sentence of the first chapter that grabbed and pulled me in. It began: “While cleaning out my mother’s files after she died alone at her secluded house behind a locked gate near the Catskill Mounts, her five cats yowling from fear and hunger, I came upon an alarming letter.”

Before I share my thoughts on Altman’s latest novel, here are a few reviews that best articulate some of my own reflections:

“Altman's uncanny ability to yoke the everyday drama out of life and imbue her characters with an emotional complexity makes ‘We Never Told’ a novel that gets to the essence of what family is. A tale that unfolds with nuance and an endearing sense of humor, this is the kind of writing that is impossible to shake as it bravely mirrors our collective experience of learning to love what feels at times impossible to embrace.”
―Liam Everett, award-winning artist

“Diana Altman’s ‘We Never Told’ is a fascinatingly intimate look into an outwardly glamorous, inwardly fractured family, whose bonds are undermined by decades of secrecy. Ms. Altman’s prose is wise, comforting, absorbing, and generous. “We Never Told” is a deeply interesting, quietly stunning novel.”
―Cintra Wilson author of “Fear and Clothing” and former “New York Times” critical shopper.

But the one review that I could have written was this:

The author enjoying a morning sunrise at
her lake home in Raymond
“Every house has ghosts as long as every family has secrets. This is something Westchester native and author Diana Altman knows well. Her newest novel, “We Never Told”, examines her family’s own truths in a painfully honest way that shows Altman’s ability to craft artful stories in the sweet spot between fantasy and the truth.”
―”The Scarsdale Inquirer”

Was “We Never Told” a work of fantasy or truth? The entire time I read and was captured by the life of Seymour, Violet, Joan and Sonya, I wondered, “is this story based upon the imagination of the author, or…is this a factual story about hidden truths based upon the experience of one’s life.”

Diana Altman is the daughter of a well-known father in the movie industry with ties to famous actors. So is Sonya’s father.

Diana Altman lived in the suburbs of New York City. So does Sonya’s character.

Diana Altman was the first married woman in Massachusetts to keep her maiden name after marriage without going to probate court in order to vote under her maiden name. So does the character of Sonya.

Diana Altman attended Connecticut College and then obtained her master’s degree at Harvard. Ironically, Sonya does too. 
S
o, which part of the book is fantasy and which part of the book is truth? Did Altman carry a family secret in her own life, like Sonya and her sister Joan? If so, is it possible the truth – the real truth - is now out?

If you want to find out the answers to these questions and more, you will have the opportunity to visit Altman on Thursday, August 22 at Longfellow Books, 1 Monument Square in Portland at 7 p.m. - and ask her yourself.

If you are interested in attending the PROMPT workshop that she will be facilitating, registration is required. “Please check the Raymond Arts Alliance Facebook page to see if we are still accepting registrations,” Mary-Therese Duffy of Raymond Arts Alliance requested. “If there are still available seats, an individual can register by calling 207-712-6200. Please leave your name, number and email address and I will get back to you as soon as possible.”

Cost to attend the workshop is a suggested donation of $7. Proceeds of this event go toward the Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA), a program of the Raymond Village Library in partnership with the Raymond Village Community Church. The mission of RAA is to inspire connection, collaboration, education, and enjoyment. Its focus is to enrich the community through the arts and present events for all ages. RAA encourages community participation and provides a space where cultural diversity is celebrated.

For more information about Diana Altman: www.dianaaltman.com.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Retired teacher is on a fast track to publishing

By Lorraine Glowczak

“Sullivan's eyes were closed, feet on the desk and he was grateful for a few quiet moments. Digging his phone out of his shirt pocket he listened to a message that just came through.

‘It's time to put your detecting skills to a real test. You have been involved in solving three serial killing sprees as of late. You will soon see, they are child's play compared to the challenge I am about to pose. Be on guard and watch the family. We shall meet again... soon.’”

Russ Warnberg
And thus, the mystery begins for Detective Cole Sullivan. Mystery/crime writer, Russell Warnberg of Windham, who retired last year after 41 years of teaching history and English in the Gray public-school system with the last nine years at Windham Christian Academy, has dedicated his life this past year to creative pursuits. Penning mysteries and crimes are among those artistic endeavors – and Warnberg has had very productive year.

“I’ve published six books with two on the way,” Warnberg stated. “I have to always be doing something creative and writing is one way I enjoy spending my time.”

Warnberg is originally from Minnesota. At the age of 17, he joined the Navy Reserves and was stationed in Brunswick where he met his wife. After the Navy, Warnberg and his wife moved back to his home state and, while there, he attended the University of Minnesota. “I was never really a great student while in high school, but I was surprise at how well I was performing academically once I was in college,” Warnberg said. “But I was even more shocked to discover that I did really well in an English course. I wondered then if I should become a writer.”

His first attempt at writing, a novella, occurred in 1980. “It was my first time to write a book, but I have to admit it wasn’t very good,” Warnberg said.

Warnberg, who moved to Windham to be near his wife’s family 40 years ago turned to other creative outlets while working full time. He spent his free time painting and designing/building furniture, which he has sold on a number of occasions. But it wasn’t until retirement that he decided to put his author’s hat back on and give publishing a try. Things have been going very well ever since.

His first novel in the Detective Cole Sullivan series was “Edge of Redemption”. His latest book, which is not a part of the Sullivan series is “Mystery on Twin Lakes”, set in his hometown in Minnesota. And speaking of town settings – Warnberg hasn’t forgotten Windham. “My book, ‘Gateway Murder’, is set here in Windham and is based upon an old retired detective who just wants peace and quiet, so he moves to Windham, ME to get that. But no sooner does he get here, someone is murder and he is called to help solve the crime.”

Murder mysteries are not the only books he’s written. Warnberg has also penned a “1984”-esque dystopian novel entitled, “2064”.

For those who wish to publish their writing, Warnberg advises that the only way to really do it, is to sit down every day to write. “If you are passionate about writing, you must do it. Even on the days you don’t feel like it.” He admits that there are times he doesn’t feel “inspired” every moment he sits down to write, but most often, it has been an easy process. He also admitted, that this summer, he has taken a sabbatical from writing to spend some time painting. “But I plan to get back to writing soon. I still have too many novels in me that need to come out.”

If you are interested in reading Warnberg’s novels, they are available on barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.









The New England Jazz Band: A fundraiser for area art and nature at Hacker’s Hill

By Mary-Therese Duffy

Carrying a mission statement of creating community together through the arts is a tall order.  How do we do that?  How do we foster a sense of warmth and welcome, a chance to get to know and support one another through the arts? How do we foster community ownership of it so that it becomes a sustaining, nourishing and long-lasting presence in our lives?

The New England Jazz Band entertains the crowd at Hacker's Hill
We could start with the beautiful setting of Hacker’s Hill, precious gem of our community, tended lovingly by Don Fowler for well over 20 years now, sculpting it into what it has become today. Or his pleased, watchful eye of the multiple cars, families, pets and roaming youth pausing for an afternoon of leisure and enjoyment together.  Or the Loon Echo Land Trust now formally stewarding it.

We could also start with a 16-piece band that by the work of leader Steve Schann, has dedicated itself to the promotion and preservation of the Great American Song book. Together for five years, this group of professional musicians and music educators toted their instruments once again to the wide-open expanse, blustering winds and all, with music clips, even clothes pins and binder clips in tow, to secure their sheet music to their stands and performed their concert on Hacker’s Hill on Sunday, August 4.

Their offerings weren’t just sheer delight, they were timeless, timely and for many - stopped time altogether - creating a long and lovely pause to greet old friends and catch up, make new ones over shared fare, similar pets, delightful raffle winnings and more. 

Those attending could look right and enjoy the scrabble of kids up and down the hillside or left to find a couple stealing a sweet dance together, all glowing in the warmth that wasn’t just Hacker’s Hill to own. It was community, people clearly happy to see one another again, generous to meet others for the first time, glowing with the familiar soundtrack of who we are that is treasured as our songbook. 
Everyone even enjoyed a boisterous throwdown: “an extra donation to the RAA (Raymond Arts Alliance) if you can do Mac the Knife!” was the challenge when the band had finished their last song.

Ever read a face that said “Pshaw!”? Jeremy Turner, talented singer and sure fire, crowd pleaser, clearly knew a cake walk when he saw it, and offered a rendition that brought everyone to a fun filled and joyous standing ovation.

There’s a lot wrong in the world right now, but what is very right, is community: local, engaged, kind and welcoming community. Some say that’s generosity, but isn’t it also courage? The arts move our hearts, connect us in ways that drop pretense and allow us to transcend differences, meet each other in the warmth of other horizons, beyond the fences we keep. This not only happened again this year, it deepened; and the requests for next year are already coming.

The Raymond Arts Allaince cannot thank enough the members of the New England Jazz Band, the Loon Echo Land Trust, the many Raymond merchants who donated raffle prizes, (see the Raymond Arts Alliance July newsletter at the Raymond Village Library website for a full listing) and every individual that arrived and engaged, sustaining a kind and welcoming community, beyond the fence.

Miss Southern Maine Princess uses platform to promote anti-bullying campaign locally

By Craig Bailey

When Miss Southern Maine Princess, Adelynn Elwell, was asked for the key message she would like to share with others, her immediate response was, “I want to create a respectful environment in schools.” Her message echoes that of The Crown CARES program.

The Crown CARES (Creating a Respectful Environment in Schools) program is specifically designed
Adelynn Ewell 
for pageant systems to promote awareness internationally, on the number one problem facing youth and children in school and today's society: bullying and harassment.

When Elwell was asked how she became involved in the pageant system she indicated “I got started when I was three-years old. My mother got me into this. She too was in a pageant and won Mrs. Raymond, in 2015.”

Elwell’s win in February, as Miss Southern Maine Princess (age group, seven to nine years old), is a big step on her way to the USA nationals, to compete for Miss USA Princess. This recent accomplishment also qualifies her for a Presidential volunteer award! The next competition is for Miss Maine Princess, taking place on August 18th, in Biddeford.

As part of The Crown CARES Program, each titleholder spends their year visiting schools and promoting awareness, reading to children and helping them to understand how to stand up to bullying.

Elwell comments, “As a pageant winner, I’ve had the opportunity to read the book “Sticks, Stones and Stumped” (authored by Deb Landry) to preschool and kindergarten classes and make friendship bracelets. I’ve also joined a couple of parades and we held a ‘Unite against bullying’ dance party to get the message out.”

During the upcoming competition, contestants will participate in several activities including an interview with four judges. In preparation, Elwell shared her response to some of the potential questions she may be asked, such as: What is your favorite class? Elwell prefers art and music as she really likes being creative. To another question, what is your favorite color, Elwell responded “Pink and purple as they are bright colors and I’m pretty bright.”

When asked, what may be the most important pageant-related question, why should you become Miss Maine Princess, Elwell quickly responded, “Because people should really stop bullying. I have a big voice. A lot of people look up to me, want to be my friend and listen to me.”

Her Mom, beaming, indicated, “She is the perfect girl to embrace this as she is a best friend to everyone. The program creates a good, respectful environment that children will remember.”
In addition to the interview, contestants will participate in an opening number with all contestants working together as well as typical pageant competitions such as runway fashion, fitness, talent and others.

Elwell’s Mom reinforced, “The Crown CARES program was created as a way to empower girls to use their title and influence to promote anti-bullying. Since every voice counts, it is great to get them involved at an early age.”

A related contest Elwell is competing in, the People’s Choice for Miss Pine Tree State, based on online voting, closes on August 16. Visit https://www.crossroadsproductions.me/product-page/adelynne to vote for Adelynn. Each dollar donated counts as a vote and the money raised goes towards the anti-bullying platform.

In closing, Elwell offers the following advice for anyone observing bullying, “Simply say, ‘Please stop, you are going to hurt someone’s feelings. Just be nice.”
If you’d like to join the fight against bullying, visit www.crowncares.org

Friday, August 2, 2019

Five moments when you should check your insurance

Thanks to the life insurance Maria Loera’s husband Roberto bought, she was able to pay for funeral costs, medical bills and day-to-day expenses after his passing. It even helped her set up college savings accounts for their children. "Roberto’s life insurance was such a blessing," said Maria. "It’s something every family should have."

Insurance protects you, your family, and your home from the unexpected, but it can only do its job if the coverage is up to date. Review your insurance annually or during key life changes such as these:

Your family status changes. 
Your family status changes. If you're marrying, expecting a baby, or adopting a child, you'll want to protect your growing family with adequate life insurance and disability income insurance.  25% of Americans wish that their spouse or partner had more life insurance. 

Approaching retirement or losing a family member through death or divorce should also prompt a policy review. Remember to change the beneficiary designations on your existing policies as needed.

Your children grow up.
When you have a new teen driver, adequate auto insurance is a must. Adding a teen driver may initially increase your premiums; however, costs may gradually drop as they gain more experience behind the wheel. Your auto insurance agent can share more and tell you about discounts that may be available. If your student is leaving for college or has recently graduated, it's a good time to consider personal property, liability, and renter’s insurance for the new living arrangements.

You're moving or remodeling. 
Whenever your address changes, review your homeowner’s insurance to make sure the new property is adequately protected. It's also a good time to update your home inventory - whether you're adding items such as new furniture or scaling back for a move to a smaller home. Also, be sure to update your coverage if you renovate or make any additions to your current home.

You're starting a business.
Whether you're going to rent office space or open a home-based business, include a thorough insurance review in your start-up plans. Depending on the size of your operation, you may have to consider property and liability, commercial vehicle, and workers' compensation coverage, as well as a health care plan for employees. If you're a sole proprietor working from home, be sure to review your homeowners plan to see that your business and equipment are fully covered.  Many homeowners policies specifically exclude all business operations on premises.

You need health insurance options,
In today's rapidly changing health care environment, protecting your family's health can be a challenge. If your current plan is up for renewal or if you've been downsized and need brand-new coverage, take the time to compare plan features against your family's current or anticipated needs.

This article brought to you by Tricia Zwirner of State Farm.


Windham delegation recognizes Executive Director of Riding To The Top

Windham Delegation members, Senator Bill Diamond, and Representatives Mark Bryant and Patrick Corey, recognized Sarah Bronson, Executive Director of Riding to The Top (“RTT”) with a State proclamation at RTT’s Board of Directors meeting in July. Representative Mark Bryant read the proclamation which states:     
                                             
“Be it known to all that We, the Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives join in th Legislature and the people of the State of Maine”
Rep. Patrick Corey, Sen. Bill Diamond, Sarah Bronson,
 Rep. Mark Bryant
recognizing Sarah Bronson, of Windham, Executive Director of Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center, who has received the 2019 Region1 PATH International Credentialed Professional of the Year Award for making the center a leader in providing equine-assisted activities and therapies to individuals with a wide range of physical, mental and behavioral challenges. We extend our congratulations and best wishes; And be it ordered that this official expression of sentiment be sent forthwith on behalf of the 129

The delegation thanked Sarah for all that she has done and continues to do and noted, “ We are very proud of Sarah and what she represents. We realize that her main goal is not to seek recognition for herself but to shine a light on Riding To The Top, equine assisted activities and therapies and the health and wellness of people in our community.” Gary Plummer, former State Representative and State Senator, and a current RTT Board member noted that this was a very rare and special recognition – and well deserved, “The first time I met Sarah it was very obvious to me that she was a “go-getter” and a very special person.”

In April, Sarah Bronson was awarded the 2019 Region 1 PATH Intl. Credentialed Professional of the Year, which automatically enters her to be considered for PATH Intl.’s larger international award where all regional and international winners compete. The winner will be announced at PATH Intl.’s Annual Conference in Denver, CO this November.

About Riding to the Top
Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center (RTT) was founded in 1993.  Our mission is enhancing health and wellness through equine assisted activities and therapies. Located just west of Portland in Windham, Maine, RTT is the state’s only year round PATH Intl. Premier Accredited Center solely dedicated to Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies. More than 250 clients visit annually, assisted by certified instructors, a herd of 19 horses and over 160 volunteers, all specially trained to assist with therapeutic riding, equine assisted learning, carriage driving and hippotherapy. Riding To The Top is a community-based nonprofit, receives no federal or state funding and provides scholarships to over 60% of its clients.  For more information about client services, volunteering, or making a gift, please visit us at www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813.


Book Review: “The Nix” by Nathan Hill


Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

Nathan Hill’s “The Nix” is possibly too long, with too many points of view and way too many tangents. There are also too many characters. And, it wraps up too conveniently, although at least no one is perfectly happy. Maybe it’s a little too philosophical in places. But, for any weakness this book has, they are far outweighed by its strengths. This book is smart, funny, and tender. Hill has an incredible amount of compassion for every one of his characters, so much so that as the reader, I had the sense he couldn’t wait to get back to writing them as much as I couldn’t wait to get back to reading about them.

The story opens with Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a literature professor who doesn’t love teaching but does love online gaming. He used to love a girl named Bethany, but that comes later. Samuel’s mother, Faye, leaves Samuel and his father when Samuel is eleven, the same year he falls in love with Bethany. Faye resurfaces just as Samuel’s life is falling apart—he is close to being fired because of a student he accused of plagiarism. The student, Laura, has her own sections, which are the funniest and most scathing.

Faye comes back because she is accused of attacking a right-wing candidate for president. Then we get to learn about Faye, about what brought her to Governor Packer’s event, what made her throw the rocks. We go back to her childhood, to meeting her husband, to her college years and the disastrous riots of 1968 that send her scurrying back home. There are also sections about the gaming world Samuel spends time in and the people he meets there.

There’s Bethany and her brother Bishop and what happened to Bishop and why Samuel will always feel like he failed him. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but Hill’s writing is so precise, you will want to fall into every one of these rabbit holes.

Most of this book is a hilarious social commentary that is provocative and thoughtful. Its shortcomings just don’t matter.