“Our Best Hopes…”

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“And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.”

This quote from Ronald Reagan’s 1992 Republican Convention speech has struck me powerfully today.

Those who know me know that I rarely quote Reagan or Republicans (though my other favorite quote of the 40th President is “There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.“)

But with the current campaign climate and all its nastiness, a change of tone surfaced when this quote came up during the coverage of the passing of Nancy Reagan today.

The lovely and circumspect quote above clarified to me why this season’s Republican presidential campaign is so distasteful and disgusting to me:

No one is appealing to our “best hopes.” Everyone is appealing to our “worst fears.”

That is precisely why no one is inspiring my “confidence.” The candidates have instead sensationalized and over-generalized various topics, pitted groups of Americans against each other, lashed out at other nations and cultures, demeaned their fellow candidates, magnified people’s doubts, and turned the whole affair into a circus when it could have been an intelligent, compassionate and cogent series of dialogues and debates.

Not that such tactics are anything new. But I’d like to think that one day our country will have a handful of candidates on both sides of the aisle who don’t merely quote their beloved predecessors every 2.3 minutes but actually emulate them — or better yet, surpass them as servant-leaders. Here’s to hoping.

Onward.

 

RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Block Party!

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HELLO FRIENDS!

So happy to welcome you to my blog today, from San Diego, California! Thanks to the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) for the opportunity to share more about my work! The RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Party in September has been a blast of inspiration so far, visiting so many great author sites, and I’m so happy to be involved! Click here for all the other participants this month so you can visit their blogs too. And if you’re not one one already, consider becoming a member of RRBC!

I would love to receive your comments — not only because writers encouraging writers is the BEST thing, but also so that you can be rewarded! Anyone who leaves me a comment today (9/21) is eligible for these prizes:

My GIVEAWAYS today are:

1. One Amazon $25 gift card!! (WINNER: John Fioravanti)

2. One Starbucks $15 gift card! (WINNER: Amy Reece)

3. One Hard Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: Michael King)

4. One Kindle E-Book Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: clynsg)

Total Winners: 4 (Will ship anywhere!)

THANKS RRBC!

I’ve been an RRBC member for just under a year but have been blessed to meet many of you and read your fine work as a result. I look forward to getting to know you better. RRBC founder Nonnie Jules recently encouraged me to engage more, helping me see the difference between support (which I had been doing with reviews, tweets, etc.) and engagement (discussing authors’ works on the RRBC website, commenting on blogs, getting to actually know some of you, and sharing more about my own writing, which I hadn’t been doing). It was an A-Ha! Moment I truly appreciate. It’s made my experience even deeper and more satisfying, and I can’t wait to keep going “Onward!” (as I like to say at the end of all my blog posts).

Earlier this year, I was also very fortunate to have a piece in the first volume of the RRBC anthology, Rave Soup for the Writer’s Soul (available here) and to have my blog win “Best Blog – Third Place” in RRBC’s contest! That was a real affirmation, since I’ve only been blogging for about a year and a half. Thank you! I appreciate your inspiring examples and kind support.

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My Website

My Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @kirazian, @TheMusicWeMade, @ReflectionDay1.  Instagram: lisakirazian

A BIT OF BACKGROUND!

I’m a longtime writer and director of plays and films and a more recent fiction author. I’ve also edited books for publishers and audiobook producers for several years and have published numerous nonfiction articles. All of these experiences — plus growing up an avid reader, the daughter of an English professor, and studying writing/literature at Stanford — truly informed me when I finally started writing fiction seriously.  In all forms, however, I love writing about women, artists and anyone who is facing a crossroads of character or faith. I feel I was put on this earth to encourage people to learn more about God, themselves and each other, through my writing, speaking and relationships. (Bio at end of post).

MY BOOK SERIES

A longform television script I wrote years ago became the basis for my first novel series, The Music We Made, about three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians in London. From 1960’s London to the present, we follow siblings Kate Driscoll (an inspired violinist) and Neil Driscoll (a troubled pianist) and their circle of friends and loves — from childhood auditions to conservatoire to the world stage, and the challenges they face onstage and off.

For me, the series is a love letter to music, a valentine to musicians.  Its theme quote is TS Eliot’s unforgettable line: “You are the music while the music lasts.”

The first book in the series, years in the making, is BRAVURA, released December 2014. It was inspired by my experiences as a violinist. How this book came about is detailed in my blog post, “The Journey of an Idea,” (click here).

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BRAVURA on Amazon

You can read the first chapter of BRAVURA here.  It’s been featured on Literary Fiction Book Review here. And you can watch the book trailer to BRAVURA here:

The next book in the series, APPASSIONATO, comes out this Winter in late 2015/early 2016. It continues the story of the next generation: Jenny Driscoll, a composer and conductor, navigating her personal and professional life in London in the 1990’s.

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You can read the first chapter of APPASSIONATO here. And you can watch the trailer to APPASSIONATO here:

The final book in the series, CADENZA, will come out in Fall 2017.  It takes the series to America in the present day, where Jenny Driscoll’s grown son, opera tenor Brian Martin, travels to find out what he never knew about his grandmother, the famous American soprano, Maggie Crawford.

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The entire Music We Made series of books is also being adapted for television, which I’m thrilled about. As all writers know, it’s a marathon to get our work to be the best it can be — and to get it to the right audience, but I’m willing to stay the course! I hope you are, too.

OTHER WORK

Just for a little change, I also wanted to share about my most recent film, REFLECTION DAY, which I wrote (adapted from a stage play) and directed:

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REFLECTION DAY is about an African American woman with Alzheimer’s and her young male caregiver. It screened at several film festivals last year across the US and is being used as a teaching tool for nurses and caregivers at various schools and facilities. I was proud to be a part of this production. You can watch the trailer here.

RDHallJohnsonAndre                                                          Rich Pierre-Louis and Edythe Davis in “Reflection Day.”

We never know what direction our creativity will take us, but all I know is that we have to follow it, no matter what the risk or challenge. That’s all for now, Friends! Keep going, keep writing, and don’t forget to leave a comment! Thank you!

ONWARD!

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I’m proud to say that the fantastic artist Natalie Kaldjian designed all my book covers and can be reached at http://www.nataliekaldjian.com.

LISA’S BIOGRAPHY

Lisa Kirazian is a writer of plays, screenplays, articles and a new novel series.  Her scripts have been produced and published nationwide and she directs for stage and screen.  Her articles have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Performing Arts Magazine, NPR/KPBS Radio, Student Leadership Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune.

Lisa was born and raised in San Diego and is a graduate of Stanford University.  Her writing mentors have included Anna Deavere Smith, Paul Peterson, Janet Tiger, and Paula Vogel.

She resides with her husband Steve in San Diego, California, and their two daughters.  Lisa serves on several arts boards, is active in her Armenian community, and is a popular speaker.  She blogs weekly about writing and creativity and is currently at work on a new play, a new novel, and a book about mentorship.

What Leadership Is – and Isn’t

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Coming out of a special two-year leadership experience I just completed, I continue to reflect on what leadership is – and isn’t. Here are ten things leadership is, and five things it isn’t:

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One a Day

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Now that a heavy time commitment — a volunteer leadership role I had — has ended (besides the wrapping up that’s always involved), I’m finally able to return to some things that I’ve, well, neglected.

Exercise (I’ve resumed daily morning walks).

Down time (what’s that?)

And — Our House.

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You know. The place where we live, that I haven’t cleaned in a while. The mail, the laundry, the purging, the boxes that need to be sent, the filing, my writing project drafts everywhere, the kids’ stuff, the Goodwill pile.

All THAT stuff.

So I’ve been taking it a bit at a time. I’ve told myself that each day (or most days) I will do a One a Day. Like the vitamins we know so well.

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Here’s what One a Day can look like.

One a Day (cleaning):

  • One cabinet a day
  • One drawer a day
  • One pile a day

Or with writing:

  • One paragraph a day
  • One chapter a day
  • One research topic a day

The point? Manageable daily goals.

We grew up with our Dad often paraphrasing an Albert Einstein quote about how we can master anything if we do it fifteen minutes a day. We often took that in the context of learning something — a musical instrument, a new skill or hobby.

But it can also apply to accomplishing any project or discipline, like cleaning or spiritual reflection time, or writing, or exercising, or organizing. We’ll master anything to which we devote consistent time.

Anything that we give fifteen minutes a day to will flourish, whether reading with our kids, praying for a specific area of our life, or cleaning that pile that stares us in the face as we pass it each day.

My first week ‘back’ to normal, post-commitment, I was proud of what I was able to do, Monday-Friday:

  • I cleaned out four cabinets
  • Took four walks
  • Cleared two Rubbermaid bins
  • Took one trip to Goodwill with three giveaway bags
  • Did four loads of laundry
  • Started prepping our daughter’s room for painting

Then all the unhelpful talk crept in my head:

But you still have so much to do! This didn’t even make a dent! Everything is still everywhere — awful!

Then I tried to tell myself that I can’t make up for two years in one week. It was still progress. That’s all that matters. Progress. Forward motion. One bit at a time.

One a Day.

What One a Days are you going to attempt this week?

Onward!

Love — and a Gavel

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I recently completed a two-year term as chairman of a national Armenian women’s organization, and at our annual conference last week I led a small workshop on women’s leadership development.

During the workshop, I asked participants some of the perennial questions: what is a leader and what do they do? What are the challenges they face, and what are the unique challenges of women in leadership? What are some of the misperceptions of leadership – and the solutions?

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Word for 2015 – Revisited

It seemed fitting to start my blog’s second year with a closer look at the word I chose as my theme for 2015: shed.

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Since we’re nearing the end of first quarter 2015, I decided to check in quarterly about this word, this goal, of mine. Every three months seems like a decent interval to assess and recalibrate my efforts.

So far, I’m learning that the more I try to shed, the more needs shedding. Or at least, the more I realize needs shedding. On some level, like a pile of mail, or like exploratory surgery, you don’t fully realize all that there is, until you jump full in.

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Here are the areas I identified three months ago.

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800 Beautiful Hands: A Capital Experience, Part 2

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My trip to Washington DC last week was extremely moving for many reasons (see my prior blog post). But one of the biggest reasons the trip was meaningful was the special piece seen in the photo above.

I was in town for meetings with an Armenian women’s organization I currently chair, along with a few of my fellow officers. And we had the opportunity to see a treasure at the White House Visitors Center: The Armenian Orphan Rug, given to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 by the Near East Relief Society as a gift of gratitude for the United States’ assistance in helping 100,000 Armenian orphans displaced by the 1915 Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey (and still denied to this day).

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In an orphanage in Ghazir (formerly in Syria, now in Lebanon), right after the Armenian Genocide, 400 Armenian orphan girls made this rug, spending 18 months weaving four million knots into this 18-foot masterpiece, depicting scenes reminiscent of the Garden of Eden, as well as lions, unicorns, eagles and birds in a beautiful center medallion, surrounded by other intricate patterns. It was breathtaking to see, and heartbreaking at the same time.

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What We Storytellers Do

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“George Banks will be honored.

George Banks will be redeemed.

George Banks and all he stands for will be saved —

Maybe not in life, but in imagination.

Because that’s what we storytellers do:

We restore order with imagination.

We instill hope, again and again and again.”

 

In the memorable film, Saving Mr. Banks, the character of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has just shared a series of painful memories to help author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) understand that producing a film version of her novel Mary Poppins (borne of her own painful family memories) would be meaningful not only to him, and to audiences everywhere — but also to her.

Walt Disney concludes his moving monologue with the lines above. I had to replay it several times when I first saw it. It is a remarkable moment in the film and a moment that likely resonates with anyone, but particularly with those of us who consider ourselves writers or artists.

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Why I’ll Never Win an Oscar™ (And Why That’s Okay)

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No, I’m not trying reverse psychology so that the powers that be will one day reverse course and give me one.

This is not a lament. I’m just sharing a series of recent, interconnected revelations that have brought me a lot of peace.

I’m never going to win an Oscar, and in addition to the fact that I’m a far-from-perfect writer who’s still trying to get my ‘big’ works produced, here are the other reasons why it’ll never happen — and why it’s okay:

1. I’m not in the “In” crowd and don’t want to be. Sure I have great contacts, have had some things produced and published, have had representation, but it’s an insulated industry. Even with the more democratic tools like The Black List, conferences, film festivals, and online submission services now available, there are still few insiders and many outsiders. There are huge obstacles for every filmmaker to overcome, inside or out. But even in my pre-motherhood days working in the industry, it was still hard to feel “in” when so many of the superficial values and ‘labels’ I saw ran counter to my core. Even when I was “in,” at different points in my life, I never felt “in,” and I don’t plan on feeling differently any time soon.

2. I’m an Indie through and through. My work is not mainstream commercial. It’s a lot of artsy stuff, chick flicks, period pieces, artist biographies, spiritual journeys, smaller stories, all the things that I’ve always been told Will Not Sell. But those are the stories I’m passionate about: the ones that others aren’t telling. So I just have to tell them better, revising and refining them each day, to be worth my salt and to do the stories and characters justice as I seek the right audience for them.

3. I love God first. Alongside my characters’ wayward behavior (which Christians often dislike), faith and redemption will find their way into my stories for at least one character somewhere (which non-Christians often dislike). I’ve managed to bother both ‘sides’, and thus will probably never fully belong with either crowd artistically, and I’m okay with that, because I can’t write any other way. Sure, films involving faith get thrown a bone every once in a while by the Academy (Chariots of Fire, Elmer Gantry, etc.) but for the most part they are anathema, even when they are excellent (which, sadly, is rare). And I don’t always fit the clean, faith-based, family-friendly formula either, largely because I will show sin, sex, abuse, language and lostness of all kinds, when I feel a story calls for them. Somehow I sense that God wants me to be honest about the struggles I see in and around me, so that I can explore Hope and possible paths forward through theater and film, even if I hit resistance. He will always be central to anything I write, no matter what that ‘costs’ me.

4. I don’t have the PR Machine behind me. It is amazing how much that machine can shape popular opinion, how many millions the studios spend “for our consideration” to get people to veer toward their film nominees and vote, vote, vote for them. I truly am happy when a fine and deserving film gets a lot of attention. But I never want to be the person who over-promotes myself — and that alone is probably why I’ll never rush to the front of any industry pack. I want my work to speak for itself and create natural word of mouth, even if it is only to a smaller audience. Talking to audience members over the years, who have come up to me to share what my work has meant to them — those unforgettable moments are the only ones that really matter “for our consideration.” Continue reading

Leading from the Heart

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I had the opportunity this past week to preside over the annual conference of a national women’s organization for which I currently serve as national chairman. It was a whirlwind of hard work, good dialogue, much celebration and very little sleep.

Although I had been to this conference and participated in committee and regional leadership positions before, it was quite different being the ‘buck stops here’ leader. I got quite a different perspective presiding over business sessions, rapping that gavel, calling for the vote, giving speeches, announcing new goals and listening to so many comments about what members want and need.

Here are some of the things I took away this week as a leader and as a writer/speaker:

People want their leaders to speak up.

Of course people want their ideas to be heard. But they also want their leader to be decisive and have their own ideas. More often than not, members of a group would rather respond to a specific leader directive (yay or nay) than be told by their leader: “Well, whatever you want to do…” Ideally, an organization can benefit from integrating the ideas of leadership and of members at large.

People want their leaders to listen.

Sometimes people just want to know that you understand them and will think about what they’re staying or suggesting. Even if you don’t agree or decide not to proceed with the idea, members feel respected when they feel heard.

Your main message or vision must be articulated well, if people are going to buy into it.

You could have the greatest idea in the world but if you or your representatives can’t convey that idea well, can’t share the message with conviction and power, no one is going to feel compelled to do anything about it. They’re not going to take ownership of it unless it connects with them inwardly in a significant way. So a leader must not only speak fairly well and be clear in presenting their idea, but they also have to show their own personal connection to the idea and why it matters to them. That will help others see how the idea or vision pertains to them as well.

If you’re not passionate about what you’re saying/doing, it shows.

One thing that I appreciate about the organization I lead is that it incorporates a lot of the different parts of who I am, and thus I feel strongly about the group and its role in our community. I am passionate about what it does and what it has the potential to do for women and families around the world. Fortunately, so my members tell me, that passion shows. They have often commented that my sincerity and conviction when speaking motivates them to do more in their local chapters and communities to achieve our collective goals. That is hugely satisfying for me. Whatever we feel or don’t feel, it will show.

You can’t please everybody.

Leaders are usually in office only a short amount of time. They have to prioritize because they can’t accomplish everything they set out to do, and they can’t respond to everyone’s requests. They have to be selective. And that’s all right — the finite nature of elected leadership positions forces us to think hard about what matters most and pursue it with urgency and heart.

Leaders, artists, writers — all of us are helped by the perennial questions we’ve all heard:

What would you do if you knew you had a month to live? If you knew this was the last novel/story/book/play you were going to write, what would you want it to say? What do you want your epitaph to say?

When we ask such questions, it helps us refine what matters most to us, what goals are most important to us, what overall purpose touches us most deeply, what ‘story’ we feel we MUST tell. Whether we are leading an organization, a family, a theater troupe, or any other group, we have to remember to act, speak and listen, with our whole mind and heart, to get our story across and to get others to come alongside on our journey.

Onward!

This blog post was originally published on July 7, 2014 but has certainly remained true in my recent work with the same organization, which is why I wanted to share it with those who may not have seen it before.