Tag Archives: Russia

Are Minor Literary Awards Worth It? by David Pereda

With the advent of digital technologies like the Kindle and the Nook, which have fueled an exponential growth in electronic publishing, there has also been a mushrooming in organizations handing out literary awards. We all know the impact a major award like the Nobel Prize, the National Book Award, or the Pulitzer Prize can have on an author’s career — or, on a more specialized basis, the Edgar, Shamus or Anthony awards.

But what about all the other awards littering the landscape. Are these minor literary awards worth it?

The answer is a resounding yes, and the reasons are plentiful. Here are five of them:

1- They give beginning writers confidence

2- They provide established writers with a yardstick to be measured against

3- They outline a step-by-step learning process — first compete in the easier ones and then move on to the harder ones

4- They allow winners to add these wonderful words to their bios: “award-winning writer”

5- They provide winners with gold stickers to attach to their books, thereby making them more attractive to potential buyers

Now, mind you, don’t think for a moment that it’s easy to win any of these minor literary awards. It isn’t. There are many good writers entering those competitions, and they are trying to win too.

Consider the awards I have won — the Royal Palm Award, the Lighthouse Book Award (twice with different books), the Indie Book Award, and the Readers Favorite Book Award (twice with different books). I won’t mention here all the other awards I entered but didn’t win. Hey, you know how it is — you win a few and you lose a few.

The Royal Palm Award is handed out once a year by the Florida Writers Association and it is a prestigious award, available to all writers throughout the United States and internationally. FWA is the largest writers’ organization in Florida, consisting of more than one thousand members; it has chapters all over the state of Florida and other states, including North Carolina. Awards in different categories are handed out at the Florida Writers Association Annual Conference, usually held at Disney World every year, and attended by thousands.

The Lighthouse Book Award is handed out annually at Ponte Vedra, Florida, and it’s available to writers from all over the United States.

The Indie Book Awards are held annually and many authors and small publishers compete.

The Readers Favorite Award is held annually, too, and many small and large publishers compete, as well as writers from all over the world. The award ceremony usually takes place during the respected Miami Book Fair held in Miami in the month of November every year.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other minor literary awards – ranging from those handed out by tiny writers’ groups to those promoted by large organizations charging hefty fees. I encourage you to get on the Internet and check them out. All you need to do is Google “literary awards” and they’ll come charging at you like a herd of spooked wildebeests. Unless you are an experienced writer, I suggest you bypass the contests with the hefty fees and concentrate on the smaller ones for now, which are often free — or charge a nominal fee to enter. Later, when you have gained more experience, you can try the larger awards with the hefty fees.

What’s my next step regarding awards?

I’m making a selection of places to submit my new thriller, Twin Powers, recently published by Second Wind Publishing and now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Twin-Powers-David-Pereda/dp/1630661112/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425253277&sr=1-2&keywords=twin+powers.

If Twin Powers does well, which I expect it will because I know it’s a good book and the reviews so far have been outstanding, I’m considering moving up in competition to challenge the “bigs.” What do I have to lose, really?

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena;

who strives valiantly

who errs and comes short again and again;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement;

and who at the worst, if he fails,

at least fails while daring greatly;

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who know neither victory nor defeat.”

So, to summarize: Are minor literary awards worth it? Yes, yes, and yes!

If you happen to be an aspiring writer wishing to make a name for yourself, I have three words of advice for you: Go for it! Find a suitable literary award competition for your level of writing, polish up that short story or novel in your drawer you think so highly of but are afraid to show anybody, and get out of your cave and go find the cheese.

What do you have to lose?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

David Pereda is the award-winning author of seven novels, dozens of articles and a handful of poems. His latest thriller, Twin Powers, published by Second Wind Publishing in February 2015, has received rave reviews. Visit www.davidpereda.com

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Seeing Tsars – Catherine’s Palace, Russia

St. Petersburg is unlike any other city I’ve ever seen. The only commonality to some other beautiful and historic cities is that one could take a lifetime to discover and absorb it all. I had only four days, just enough to wish I could go back again and again.

Today, I’m concentrating on Catherine’s Palace, located 15 miles from St. Petersburg in the palace complex called Tsarskoe Selo, which means “Tsars Village” in Russian. The village consists of Catherine Palace and Park and Alexander Palace and Park. Catherine Palace was built in the early eighteenth century and was the summer residence of Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine (I) and was subsequently expanded and redecorated by their daughter Elizabeth and, later, Catherine the Great (II). Alexander Palace and Park were built later by Catherine II and were most famously used by the last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family, who were imprisoned there and later sent to Siberia and executed in 1918. World War II destroyed much of the palace complex, but, thankfully, it has been completely restored to its former magnificence.

(Note: Click on photos to enlarge)

Main Architects Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli and Charles Cameron exceeded their genius by using an abundance of Baroque gilded carvings, multi-wood parquetry and mirrors below spectacular ceiling murals by such artists as Antonio Peresinotti, Pietro and Francesco Gradizzi and Ivan Belsky, to create such masterpieces as the world has never known. Each room was more amazing than the last.

Within the shells of the rooms were gilded furnishings, statuary, paintings, hand painted silk wall coverings, priceless carpets, ivory chess sets, porcelain table decorations, etc. Even the stoves to heat the rooms in the frigid Russian winters were works of art with hand painted tiles composing the surface. Whole rooms had themes devoted to semi-precious stones like malichite, agate and rare marble.

One room in particular, famous the world over, is the Amber Room, dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” As a tourist, I was not allowed to take photos in this room, but it’s worth checking out the Internet sites’ accounts of the Amber Room with its fifty-five square meters and six tons of amber. Imagine an enormous wall of pieces of amber put together like a jigsaw puzzle and on top of that, wainscoting and mirror frames and cartouches, all composed of layers of Baltic Sea amber with carvings in different hues of amber embellishment. Mix this with gilded wood carvings and more carved and gilded mirrors and I’m certain you would say this room was absolutely breathtaking! If you are interested in seeing a video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_YTD7N8LS0

Catherine Palace was the summer palace as stated at the beginning of this post. There was also a Winter Palace, the Yusupov Palace, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia and where Rasputin was murdered, both located in St. Petersburg. Additionally, all four tour days were filled with museums, art galleries, gardens and churches within the city called the Venice of the North.

During this trip, I often found my mouth pretty-much stuck in the O position and my neck suffering from whiplash while I tried to take it all in; floors, ceilings, walls, even views through windows to parks, fountains and gardens beyond. To be able to witness this opulence and artistry was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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Ancient Onion Domes Galore

Today, I’ll be taking you to Kizhi Island (pronounced KEE – ZHEE), a stop on my recent Russian river cruise. Kizhi Island, in Russia’s republic of Karelia, is located on Onega Lake, (one of Europe’s largest), near the Finnish border in the northwestern part of Russia and 250 miles northeast of St. Petersburg. Since the lake freezes in winter, most travelers only see this UNESCO World Heritage Site in warmer months, after icebreakers have cleared the way. Many examples of ancient wooden Russian structures are here and some date from the 14th century.

First glimpse of Kizhi

First glimpse of Kizhi

As our river ship approached the island, a breathtaking view of the Church of the Transformation greeted us. Twenty-two spectacular onion domes pierced the sky with scaly shingles shining silver in the sunlight. We were told it was built by Karelian carpenters in 1714, but most remarkably, not a single nail was used! How was that possible? The aspen dome pieces were notched together, as was the main structure of pine. Absolutely amazing!

Next to the Church of the Transfiguration stands the Church of the Intersession with ten onion domes, thought to have been built in 1764. The builders succeeded in blending both churches and later, the belfry, into a single complex.

Churches & Bell Tower

Churches & Bell Tower

"Silver" Onion Domes

“Silver” Onion Domes

After touring the church complex our group enjoyed strolling in the summer sun along a path that led us to other structures. One in particular stood out to me, because of its likeness to some homes I’ve seen in the mountains of Switzerland. This home housed the family, harvested crops and animals during the harsh Russian winter, the animals and crops below and family above, keeping all relatively warm. Here practicality and necessity worked together nicely. In the upper family living quarters, often there were enclosed sleeping areas situated adjacent to the central fireplace used for cooking.

Traditional Home

Traditional Home

Close-up

Close-up

It sounds toasty, but I have the feeling even with these features, it still must have been difficult to keep warm in the frigid winters. My poor little Florida body wouldn’t have fared well at all, me thinks. Although it was wonderful seeing and learning about how other peoples managed their lives in the harshest of circumstances, I’m glad I live in a warmer climate with all the amenities that are available to me. How do you think you would fare?

Did you know that scenes from the 2012 movie, Anna Karenina were shot at Kizhi, specifically, the home above and the church complex? If you have the chance, visit Russia and see for yourself the wonders of a spectacular and romantic country.

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My New Impressions of Russia by Coco Ihle

When I was a child, my impressions of Russia included Soviet troops and missiles parading through Red Square and Nikita Khrushchev’s angry face on TV at the UN, air raids in our schools where we students were told to hide under our desks and cover our heads. Communism evoked fear. The Berlin Wall was built. Then later, I remember stories of Mikhail Gorbachev unsuccessfully trying to rescue his huge nation’s economy and President Regan coaxing him to tear down the Berlin Wall. Other than that, my knowledge of Russia was extremely limited. TV photos showed gloomy gray block-shaped buildings and I felt glad I didn’t live in such a seemingly oppressive place.

Last month, I returned from a three-week river cruise exploring along the Volga River from Moscow to St. Petersburg with post extensions to Estonia and Finland. I can’t say I had much in the way of advanced impressions of Estonia or Finland at all, but today’s Russia is a completely different place than the one I had imagined as a child. I never thought of Russia in color—that’s what the times and the old black and white TV did, I guess.

St. Basil's Cathedral The Kremlin

GUM Department Store Entrance

I started out in Moscow and spent four days exploring its political, historical, artistic and cultural wonders and as our tour’s Program Director promised, every day was even better than the last. I saw the typical sights like Red Square with Lenin’s Mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral, its colorful twisting onion domes gleaming in the sun like embellished ice cream cones. The  adjacent red walled Kremlin, which is actually a 15th-century walled city, houses the seat of government and Putin’s office.  In addition, there are six cathedrals and numerous museums within those walls.

One museum, the State Armory, left me breathless. This Russo-Byzantine building was designed to protect the Kremlin’s collection of valuable items, some of which dated back to the 12th-century. Sights to boggle one’s mind included historic armor, royal thrones covered in gold and studded with diamonds and precious jewels, huge gilded imperial carriages, coronation robes, the wedding dress of Catherine the Great. There were Faberge eggs, created by Carl Faberge, the jeweler to the tsars of Russia, Russian weaponry in jewel-studded cases, battle-axes, sabers, equestrian harnesses and saddles, priceless silks, velvets, and brocades, encrusted with jewels and pearls worn by the tsars. This museum definitely topped my former favorite, the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. I know it’s not fair to compare, but when I left the Kremlin, I thought my mouth would be forever stuck in the O position. It was a magical place.

I haven’t even begun to tell you about Moscow’s beautiful churches and cathedrals filled with gold, carvings, icons, mosaics and sculptures, or the GUM Department Store (pronounced GOOM) where one can purchase items from Fendi, Louis Vitton, Hermes, Gucci, etc., or the excursion to the Moscow Circus, or the Tretyakov Gallery with its more than 130,000 paintings, sculptures and graphics from Russian artists dating from the 11th to the 20th-centuries, or the beguiling flower-filled parks and street venders selling their unique wares, or the pastoral Novodevichy Cemetary, where writers Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogal and former president Boris Yeltsin are buried, or exciting stops on Moscow’s ornate Metro. What I can tell you is that Russia is fascinating, colorful, vibrant, friendly and not at all the country of my ignorant youth. It’s young again and, I’m told, the youth are full of hope, the elders are cautiously waiting to see.

Moscow's Metro Novodevichy Cemetary

Next month, on the eleventh, I’ll share some more about my trip. I hope you’ll join me.

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My Welcome Home — by Coco Ihle

On June 13th, I set off on a river cruise to Russia, Estonia and Finland, and returned to Florida on July 4th. My homecoming, however, wasn’t quite what I had planned. After about thirty hours without sleep, I arrived home at approximately 3 AM to find that a pipe had broken behind the wall in my master bathroom. Water had flooded underneath the vanity cabinets into the adjacent carpeted linen closet and traveled through the wall into my foyer, soaking the oriental carpet in the entry to the front door and out into the vestibule. On inspection I noticed black mold and fuzz now covered the back wall of the cabinets, ringed the carpet in the closet and followed the path the water had taken out the front door. Draped over several objects, I found the oriental carpet drying in the garage. I knew immediately there would be no sleep for me anytime soon.

My neighbor across the street had checked on my house the day before I returned and she immediately shut off the water heater and main water valve to my house. She also cleared out the linen closet, not knowing that the leak originated next to the closet. A note citing her observations and actions awaited me on my kitchen counter since she began her own vacation early on the day I got home. Her note expressed her regrets at the problem I had before me and she left me flowers from her garden and fresh water for coffee in the morning. Bless her!

I spent the remainder of the night cleaning out and boxing up the contents of the bathroom cabinets. Of course, naturally, that morning was July 4th. Luckily, my neighbor had left her water on for me to use until my water was restored. Good thing, because my plumber wasn’t able to come until the 5th.  Can you picture me darting like an animated cartoon character across the street in the middle of the night in my nighty to use her bathroom?

Early on the 5th, the plumber came to restore my water and he spent the day trying to find where  the leak originated and to figure out how to fix the problem. When he left, I had water on the guest side of the house, but my master bathroom pipes would have to be rerouted. Today is the 10th and the job is finally completed.

My insurance claims man arrived today as well, and we’ll have to wait and see if and how much of this problem will be covered by my insurance. My brain is picturing mega bucks. Shudder!

I had planned to start writing about my trip in this blog post, but I hope you will tune in again next month, dear reader, when I’ve had time to recover from my harrowing homecoming. By then I will have looked through the myriad photos I took, brochures I gathered and wonderful memories I logged in my brain. I’ll bone up on my adjectives, too. Russia, Estonia and Finland were awesome!

***

Coco Ihle is the author of She Had to Know, published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC

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