Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

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.

Interesting and Interested – How to Choose an Estate Agent

May 4, 2010

An estate agent can take up to 7.5% commission on the gross purchase price of my house. That is a lot of money. So how did I choose which estate agent to use?

Last year, a very pleasant estate agent came to my house to give me a free valuation for my late husband Stuart’s estate. I was surprised to find out that she was the owner of the company, yet still came personally, even though it was not a paying job. I liked her right away and made a mental note to use her, should I ever decide to sell my house.

Two weeks ago, I picked up the phone to call her. At the exact same time, my cell phone rang. I took the incoming call. It was a friend who recommended a specialist estate agent. My house, being a 120 year old wood and iron Victorian heritage building, falls into the category of specialist. So I took this as a sign and decided to go with my friend’s recommendation. I called her estate agent right away and found her to be very short on the phone and uninterested in anything I had to say about my house. She cut me off explaining that she was going away for a week and promised to diarise to call me on the 28th April when she returned. She never called.

Today, I phoned my initial choice of estate agent and the same delightful owner answered the phone. I found her to be friendly and interested in my story. We talked for 30 minutes and made an appointment. Stuart always said that people should be interesting and interested. Having just one of those qualities wasn’t enough. This estate agent listened and agreed as I spoke of my beautiful house and how I hoped the right person would come along. We talked about my move to a little village in the Western Cape and I found out that her daughter owns a property near there. Her grandchildren are the same age as my children. I made my choice. She is my estate agent.

Was it a difficult choice? No. As Seth Godin (marketing author) suggests, authentic marketing is about sharing stories, building relationships and the privilege of a offering a service. As Stuart said, it’s about being interested and interesting. I think he was right.

February on the Veranda

February 23, 2010

My morning meditation is the warmth of the sun and the song of the birds on my veranda. I sit crossed legged on a couch with my coffee and notebook and watch the circles of sunlight teasing their way through the canopy of trees overhead. Some mornings I just sit, trying to rid my head of all conscious thoughts and just be. Others I scribble away in my notebook, all the ideas and thoughts that come to me. My veranda, which is a popular spot for coffee and chats, and has a constant stream of visitors, is one of my favourite places in the world. It is here, I feel most at home. In the summertime, monkeys, birds and butterflies frequent the garden. Recently, there have been more butterflies than usual, which delights me, not only for their beauty but also for their obvious reminder of cycles.

This week marks the third anniversary of Stuart’s, passing. He left this world on 24th February 2007. It seems incredible that so much time has passed, in some ways, it feels like yesterday, in others, it is lifetimes ago. In Durban, it rains in February, and as I sit on the veranda and listen to the sound of the rain hammering on the tin roof of my old wood and iron house, I notice Stuart’s absence in the empty wooden rocking chair. Talking to him as I so often do, I thank him for all the things he brought into my life, including the gift of grief which has moved me more in the last three years than anything else probably could.  My hope, as always, is for him to discover the beauty that I see all around me, in himself. And as the rain continues, I hear him say, Tell the girls, I love them more than the sun, the moon, the stars and the sea.

Mountain Air

January 21, 2010

It’s a sweltering night and the light drizzle is not enough to keep me indoors. Sitting on the steps outside my thatched loft room in the Overberg mountains, I look past the rising trunk of a parched tree towards the shadowy mountains. Above, the clear night sky is scattered with stars that you don’t see from the city. The silence is almost eerie.

I came here to visit a dear friend and also to consider the option of moving here one day. You see, I have dreams. Plenty of them. This week I have been thinking about how to make these dreams a reality. To come up with a game plan. What I have instead found during my time here in the country is this – I have been living in the future. In my dreams and vision boards I am already living with my girls on a farm and my book is already published. I have designed my house and I have mapped my path. My dreams are so specific that I have been existing there.

But I am not there, I am here, now. The only sound is the drought-browned leaves rustling in the warm berg wind and the odd distant bark of a farm dog. And as I sit here and breathe in the mountain air I know what I want. I want simplicity, I want to be present and love my girls, and I want to write. I am writing. Not to become a famous author, I’m just writing. I don’t know where it will lead. I still believe in dreams. I want to finish my book, but I am no longer attached to the outcome. I want to have a lifestyle where my children can grow up running free, but I don’t mind where. And while I am doing whatever I do, I will follow my heart and enjoy each step of this journey. I don’t want to miss out on today. Here. Now. Open to all possibilities.

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

New Year Full Moon

December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! I would like to thank all of my wonderful friends for your endless support and love, without which I could not have come this far. I feel delighted and grateful beyond words! As a special treat, on this last night of 2009, there is a full moon all night long. And tonight it’s a blue moon, the second full moon in a calendar month. May the new year bring new opportunities for all of us.

As for new year affirmations – “My memoir, IT RAINS IN FEBRUARY, will be published in 2010”!

As I look back on my three year writing journey, I am awed by the intuitive guidance I received along the way, gently nudging me to the place I find myself today. Writing my story has been an extremely difficult emotional venture of reliving each moment, many times. I walked through all my fears and questions, my grief and hurt, into a voyage towards discovering myself. Each step has brought a different level of healing. There is still a long road ahead which I will continue to travel with an open heart.

With deep gratitude and love always, Leila

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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