Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Happy New Year

December 31, 2010

I can hardly believe that time has gone so quickly. It’s been a strange year for me, with decisions and dreams, and learning to let go. I have not done nearly as much work on my book as I intended, but that is going to change. Now that I have got into the rhythm of my new writing job, I am going to put aside time to finish my book and get it out there. I know it’s been a long wait for everyone. In a way, finishing this book is an important part of my moving forward, and so I need to make it a priority.

Speaking of priorities, I only have one new year resolution. In the words of Cheryl Richardson… EXTREME self care. When I told my father-in-law this, he laughed and asked me why couldn’t I ever do anything in normal measures, why so extreme? 2011 is a year for learning to be kinder to myself, to remember to eat healthy and sleep more. And one more thing. I will publish my book this year, if it’s the last thing I do!

Happy New Year everyone, and may it bring to you everything you need it to.

With gratitude and love

xoxo Leila

Big Dreams

November 2, 2010

It’s a drizzling November night and I sit on my bed with my laptop and write. After a long break from my book, it feels good to get back into it. Five months ago, I was certain about my future. Tonight I am open to all possibilities. I give up any preconceived ideas and release my dreams like tiny stars out into the expansive sky.  I have explained to the girls that although we are not moving to the country right now, we are not giving up our dreams entirely. We are simply releasing them and this opens up endless possibilities. Perhaps my dreams were even too small. The exciting thing, I have told them, is that now anything can happen. And it could even be bigger and better than we could have ever imagined. Maybe I was trying too hard, to make things happen in my time and in my way. Now, there are no limits. They seem to understand this, even at eight and ten years old. My inner voice, which has returned on occasion, keeps saying only one thing – finish your book. So let me get back to it.

Winter Retreat

July 6, 2010

My five week retreat in the Western Cape has come to an end. I have not known true winter for a long time. In Durban, winters are mild and tropical and the changing of seasons goes by almost unnoticed. I went with plans and ideas of editing my manuscript that flew out the window like frozen pages into the icy air. An unexpected and noise intolerant housemate resulted in me having to either keep the girls quiet or leave the house.

I have never felt quite so miserable as on the rainy days, trapped in bed, without the possibility of walking anywhere. The leafless branches outside my window mimicking the empty pages of my journal, stark and bare. And there I began to tread lightly into the winter garden of my soul, tip toeing around the uncomfortable silence, searching for a hint of intuition which seemed to have left me along with the warmer Durban weather back home. It was there that I reluctantly spent much time, pruning away fears and shedding layers of ideas and expectations, between hushed whispers.

And when the winter sun came out again, I closed my empty journal and began to walk. I walked around the village many times over, like a labyrinth of lanes lined with bare trees and walled by mountains. Searching for insight or creativity. Over time, I abandoned my hope of writing and began to notice the opportunities the barrenness offered. It was then I discovered the comforts of winter, scarves and woollen hats, gluhwein, chai tea, and the smell of wood fires. I settled into country life, baking bread, making jam, and eating eggs collected from the hens. I found pleasure in the ritual of watching birds in the garden each morning before walking. And as I walked I learned the ins and outs of the village, exploring all avenues and meeting new friends which seemed a good enough reason to be out of the house.

Winter is not over, although it is far milder now that I am back home in Durban. I am pleased to be in my own space, and look forward to writing again, or at least nurturing the seeds below the earth, getting ready for a new season.

Slowing Down

June 5, 2010

“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.” A quote from John De Paola.

The lights in the whole village have gone off tonight. I sit in darkness on the veranda with only the echo of frogs through the chilly air and the distant chime of church bells sounding eleven. I am on a five week writing retreat in a tiny village in the Western Cape, a village I am considering moving to if I sell my house in Durban. This afternoon I sat on the veranda peeling potatoes and carrots while watching the sun set over the mountains. One of the first things I’ve had to learn here is how to slow down to village pace. A tempo that I now hope will allow me to simply finish writing my story in the best way I can.

Whisperings from Another World

January 9, 2010

This is an article I wrote for a magazine, that I wanted to share –

Whisperings from Another World: After Death Communications
Can your loved one communicate with you from the other side?
by Leila Summers

I sometimes think I can hear him in the wind or I catch a flicker of movement out the corner of my eye but when I turn, he’s not there. The first time I felt my husband, Stuart, was only a few hours after I had received the news that he had drowned at sea. I was driving when I unexpectedly felt his presence. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I nervously looked in my review mirror half expecting to see him. Then an immense calm flooded through me and as I looked across the sky, the clouds had a brilliant golden edging. I knew Stuart was trying to tell me that he was at peace. But this wasn’t my only communication with my dead husband.

The following night, I saw Stuart in a dream.  We were sitting across from each other in two old fashioned armed chairs. He was explaining things to me without actual words and I again had the sense that he was at peace. Months later, I was surprised to read that conversation in a dream visitation is always telepathic and the author described an example of sitting across from each other on two chairs in an empty room.

During those beginning days, black birds and orange butterflies seemed to follow me around. My daughters Jane, aged six, and Rose, aged four, had their own dreams and experiences. One day, Jane casually asked me why dad always runs next to the car when we are driving. I tried not to look surprised and questioned her about it. She explained that his legs move slowly and his feet don’t touch the ground.

I talk to Stuart all the time, but I am never sure if the conversations in my head are figments of my imagination. At times he even warned me of things that were about to happen before they did! Like the night I drove home late and knew that there were burglars in my house.

My most recent experience was a lucid dream. I woke up to the feeling of arms around me. As I leaned into the hug I looked down and recognised Stuart’s arms. I said – it’s you! By thought, he replied – yes, it’s me. I could physically feel the arms. The top of his body was pressed through an invisible veil, as if it was an effort. I said – you managed to get through. He answered – it is difficult. After a long hug, his form was sucked back and suddenly disappeared. I was sitting up in bed, awake and knew it was real. After some time I opened my eyes to find that I was still lying down and slowly it dawned on me that it must have all been a dream.

Skeptics will say that these are all coincidences or imagination. But whether you believe in after death communication or not, there is no doubt that these experiences can be extremely comforting and healing in the grieving process.

After Death Communication or ADC is a term coined by Bill and Judy Guggenheim, authors of the book ‘Hello From Heaven’. They define an ADC as a spiritual experience that occurs when a person is contacted directly and spontaneously by a loved one who has died. These experiences include sensing a presence, hearing a voice, feeling a touch, smelling a fragrance, visions, dreams, physical phenomena and symbols. Typical symbolic ADCs include butterflies, rainbows, flowers, birds and other animals, and any number of inanimate objects. For more information visit www.after-death.com

Leila Summers lives in Durban, South Africa, with her two daughters. She enjoys reading and writing and has a passion for research. She is busy writing her memoir, It Rains In February. Visit www.leilasummers.com

Writer Platform

December 9, 2009

Hay House has announced the winner of the of the Writer’s Workshop publishing contract! Congratulations to Heather Wilson, her book is titled ‘Business at the Next Dimension: Using New Science and Ancient Wisdom for Success at Work’. I would like to express my deep gratitude to Hay House for holding the Writer’s Workshop and for providing me with this awesome opportunity. I have made many wonderful friends and contacts and I also have a completed book proposal which is now ready to submit to a literary agent.

Hay House received over 150 book proposals after the Writer’s Workshop. Their feedback was that they received many well done proposals but the biggest area of weakness for all the proposals was a platform to sell the book. The buzzword in publishing today is “platform.” A writer platform is a matter of self promotion and the amount of people you can reach. It is about getting your name out there and creating an existing demand for your book before it is published. A publisher can create a book, but the marketing is mostly up to the author. Publishers look at a writer’s platform when deciding if they will take on a book project. A platform can make all the difference in moving from being unpublished to becoming published. A writer platform can be built by owning a website, publishing articles, appearing on radio and television, blogging, doing interviews, talks and presentations, writing newsletters, developing a brand or products, taking part in social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and accumulating a large mailing list. All of these sound like a mammoth task but it is necessary to start marketing yourself before considering submitting a proposal to an agent or publisher.

So where to from now? Now begins the editing process of my memoir, IT RAINS IN FEBRUARY, which will take several months. During this time, I will continue to work on my writer platform by networking, writing and publishing articles and taking part in social media. Thanks to everyone for all your encouraging messages, your feedback means a great deal to me. Please visit my blog and Facebook pages where I will continue to share the journey with you. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Memoir Book Proposal

October 30, 2009

I have just emailed my memoir book proposal to Hay House Publishers. All the writers who attended the Hay House Writer’s Workshop had the opportunity to send their proposals directly to Hay House by November 1st. The winner will be announced in December 2009 and will be offered a publishing contract. A nonfiction book proposal was much more work than I anticipated. My proposal was forty-two pages and took me two months to research and write. Working on it provided me with clarity and vision and I am grateful for this experience and for the deadline. It’s a strange feeling to have it out in the world but now I can surrender, knowing that wherever things go from here, will be absolutely perfect. I look forward to taking some time off!

This is a short excerpt from the opening section of my proposal, THE OVERVIEW –

It Rains In February: A Wife’s Memoir of Love and Loss is the riveting true story of a husband who is obsessed, not only with another woman, but also with ending his life. In this exceptionally honest and heartfelt narrative, Leila Summers weaves a compelling story of the extraordinary year that led up to Stuart’s suicide, and the grief and profound loss that followed, gently giving a remarkable insider’s view from both the perspective of the victim and the survivor.

One million people die from suicide every year worldwide according to the World Health Organisation. That’s three thousand deaths a day or roughly one death every forty seconds. My forty seconds came on the 24th of February 2007 when my husband drowned himself at sea. I knew it wasn’t an accident, even though the medics and police never suspected suicide. Stuart had been talking about ending his life for a year. His most recent suicide attempt had been three weeks earlier. Afterwards, he explained that day as the most peaceful day of his life. Sitting next to the dam, he smoked his last cigarette. He drank a hundred sleeping pills and did a check to make sure everything would look like an accident. The last thing he remembered was swimming out into the crystal clear water. He said that he was no longer scared of dying, that there was nothing scary about it. Living was the scary thing.

It is estimated that each suicide intimately affects at least six other people. It can therefore be assumed that six million new people are directly touched by suicide each year. The question that occupies anyone impacted by such a death for the rest of his or her life is why? Stuart’s death was unusual in that he went to great lengths to try and explain himself before he died. Although each suicide is unique, this book gives the reader insight from one suicide victim’s perspective.”

Here are some useful links I used on writing a non-fiction book proposal-
How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal 
Author! Author! :: Anne Mini’s Blog
What Is a Book Proposal for Nonfiction Writers
Nonfiction Proposals

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Rainy Day Book Proposal

September 29, 2009

Springtime in South Africa and it’s been raining for a week. I love rainy days. Through my bay windows, I look out into the greenery and contemplate individual raindrops on leaves. How they can hang there for the longest time. The rhythm of the rain on the tin roof drowns out the rest of the world. From under my woven blanket, I’m working hard on my book proposal. I love that my old green wood and iron house is surrounded by a tropical overgrown garden. Surrounding myself in green makes me happy. Green represents heart. And so, in grappling for words to try and explain why I am qualified to write my book and why people would want to buy it, I remember. I just need to be me. Who I am is enough. Let my heart speak. 

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A Weekend in the Mountains

September 14, 2009

Four glorious days in a secluded cottage in the mountains is just what I need. The three hour drive meandering along country roads gives way to unwinding. Each kilometre takes me a little further away from city life, computers, emails, telephones and paperwork. I am searching for editing inspiration and creativity from deep within.

Outside the cottage, violet spring flowers hang down from the rustic terrace and attract bumble bees and memories. This is the cottage where my husband and I stayed just after we met and returned over the years with our girls.

There is something to be said for the silence and the darkness so far away from the city. It brings with it a stillness that I hope to emulate within. From the cottage, it is a short walk to the icy river scattered with pebbles and rocks . Lucid words bubble up inside me and vivid reflections encourage me to speak my clarity, my truth. A gentle reminder that I must stay true to my heart when I get back to the city, back to editing.

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Hay House Writer’s Workshop

August 29, 2009

The Hay House Writer’s Workshop was all I expected and more. I had taken a huge leap of faith, followed my heart and spent every last cent of my savings, so my dreams were big! From the very first day on the cruise, I began to do what my therapist had suggested and that was simply to share my story. It was easy when people asked, “What are you writing your book about?”. And in telling my story, the most amazing things began to happen, one after another. Small miracles. Orchastrated perfectly down to the very last detail. I touched people’s lives and they touched mine. Louise Hay signed my well-worn book. I got to spend time with Lisa Fugard, an incredibly talented writer and editor. I had an unexpected session with John Holland. I met the most incredible people, made connections and found soul friends for life. There are many other amazing things I learned from my short time on the seas around Alaska. I was reminded of how far I’ve come. I conquered fears. I learnt to listen to and follow my intuition. I discovered trust.

And then there were the quiet times of reflection that I love, and the majesty of it all, whales, glaciers and the deepest turquoise ice. Breathing, and quietly taking in the beauty and magnificence. Thrilled to be a part of the whole. There was food for nourishment and good red wine, thank you Tara. There were smiles of recognition in people I have never seen before. And there were stories, lots of stories. This is where I was reminded that everyone has a story. And I need to share mine. And all the stories are like a big patchwork that tie us together. Each one of us has experienced love, and each of us has known pain.

And as I have begun to see in my life, nothing is ever only as it seems. I wonder still, what the greater repercussions of this journey at sea will be. If I threw a stone into the expansive ocean and watched the ripples slowly going out, I would have to guess that I am only on the first ripple now. And that there are still so many more to come. The significance of which will unfurl in time.

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