Happy Second Birthday, Mom!


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My Mom (in a white dress) with her cousins just before the war.

Senior Lieutenant Malka-Galina Lerner, 1944

Today, May 9, I celebrate my Mom’s second birthday. I call this day her second birthday, as she did, because her actual birthday was on another day years earlier. She chose this second birthday herself because it represented a huge change in her life and the lives of everyone around her. It wasn’t that this was a beautiful spring day, or that the lilacs were in full bloom. May 9th is the day Russia marks as the end of World War II in Europe.

On 22 June 1941, the Germans broke their agreement and invaded the Soviet Union in ‘Operation Barbarossa’. It was a Sunday. The day before in Soviet schools there were graduation parties. When bands stopped playing, yesterday’s classmates, by tradition, went to meet the dawn. Young Muscovites headed to the Red Square, those in the Crimea – went to the seashore, in Kiev – to the banks of the River Dnieper, and in Leningrad to the River Neiva, to greet the white night. That far north, the June Sun never sets completely.

An unidentified witness described what happened next. “That day the dawn began in Moscow at 3:45 AM, but at the country’s border the engines of German tanks were already rattling and fascists’ airplanes were already in the air to bomb major Soviet cities. They had already set their course and 15 minutes after the dawn they opened their bomb bay doors, and bombs showered down on the cities and the Great Fatherland War began!”

Drawn suddenly into the War, the Soviet Union mobilized its military, activated its weapons industry, and called out to ordinary citizens to do what was necessary to stop an existential threat. Millions were called into service and many more volunteered. My Mom joined the army.

When the Soviet Army retreated from the German advance in the winter of 1941, the Nazis took all the food for their Army from the people they were invading. Only those who could not move away remained in their homes. Lots of abandoned houses were burned and a few rare people stayed home with the hope they could survive.

Once, my Mom shared one story that gave me a glimpse of that part of the war. She had not eaten in two days and had no shelter, so she knocked on the door of one such house. A woman with a baby in her arms opened the door and invited my Mom in to warm up. My Mom felt so happy to have the warmth of the house around her, and the cheerful smell of potatoes frying on a tiny stove made her head spin. Here was a family – someone else’s family but a family nonetheless.

Potatoes frying on a tiny stove made her head spin

The woman went into another part of the house with her child, closing the door after her. Mom stood there several minutes, trying to absorb all the warmth, but the potatoes frying in the skillet were screaming her name. Mom could have taken a piece – no one was looking – but she opened the outside door and left, knowing those inside would need the food. Mom’s part in the War was just starting.

1973 reunion of women – WWII participants – in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) near MOTHERLAND CALLS statue. My Mom is in the second row on the left.

She was wounded near Stalingrad, the bloodiest battle in the history of humankind. Her left arm was hanging on the tissue and a bomb, that fell close to her created a deep funnel, pulling out soil and stones and throwing it on my Mom’s head. Others, who were near her, did not survive.

In another story, she shared how she was dragging a wounded soldier from the field where many were shot from airplanes, and a German airplane was flying in circles above her head. He flew away for a short while and then, returned. getting closer to the ground. Then, he was going up circling and circling above her hand and she was holding her arm above her head trying to hide behind her arm. The pilot let her live.

Youth is a very bright time in our lives, but my Mom’s youth synchronized with four years of blood and destruction. She talked about this time her whole life. She was a hero, my Mom — carrying wounded soldiers from the battlefields to help them to extend their lives.

42 relatives on her side were killed by Nazis

If she had not gone to the war, who knows if Mom would have survived. She told me that 42 relatives on her side were killed by Nazis during the holocaust. She knew they were buried somewhere in the area they had lived. Suddenly, on October 1, 2015, I found out watching 60 Minutes that a Catholic priest from France had gone to Ukraine, Poland and Moldova and discovered the mass graves where they were buried. My Mom survived, but I lost an opportunity to have many cousins and uncles and aunts if these guys hadn’t been killed.

My Mom survived, and here I am and here is my daughter and my grandkids. Needless to say that I dragged all of them to the USA, the safest place that one could imagine. Picture. Needless to say, this gave my Mom a chance to see her descendants.

May 9, 2007

Mom understood how lucky she had been to survive – twenty million fellow Russians had not been so lucky. By the time the Germans signed the surrender, it was May 9, 1945. In Russia that became a national holiday. It was a beautiful day — the lilacs were in bloom and Mom felt reborn. From that day forward, she adopted May 9 as her second birthday.

This May 9th I am putting flowers on her tombstone once again, but she is always alive – for me!


Here is some music you would enjoy to celebrate.

Carving a Happy Life


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I was always taught that our history builds our future. Is this true? In my case it is. You can change geography, you can get a new profession, you may get new people around yourself, you may travel to different countries, but those who contribute to your vision are still with you. This is what I was taught.

I often accept friends on Facebook, and I’m usually reminded that Mark Zuckerberg’s definition of the word doesn’t match Webster’s. I was thrilled recently when I recognized the name of a true friend on an invitation. Roman Manevich and I share a common motherland and a long friendship between families. When we left the Soviet Union, we headed different directions. I got an occasional letter, or less frequently a phone call, but the opportunities to connect were rare. Suddenly there he was, surrounded by sculptures of his own devising, just as I had imagined.

15873108_137910210041631_1441918186595231916_nI brought with me to the United States some memorabilia from childhood and surely, from a couple generations earlier, and I am happy to have around the things that are dear to me. One of them is the book of Titus Maccius Plautus’s Selected Comedies. This book has Roman’s signature. Sure, it’s in Russian, and it says: Look at the world with happy eyes! I have thought about these words many-many times!  This message was a great support on numerous occasions….

Look at the world with happy eyes!

One of the great challenges to the immigrant is rebuilding your life in the new homeland. Culture and language are predictable obstacles, but many are forced to find a new livelihood as well.  Roman was able to keep his career as a sculptor, but he had to develop a new way to run the business behind his art. He shares his lifetime of carving, cutting and molding by starting where stories always do – at the beginning.

Hi Roman! It was a little bit challenging to have you talk about yourself, but I am glad you are here, and you are about to share some of your story. I asked you numerous times the same question as if I were hoping to get a different answer from you. Roman, I am asking it again, and it will be the last time. I promise! Did anyone else in your family have a talent for art? Your Mom?  Your Dad? 

No. My Mom used to say: “I do not know whom he took after. I cannot even draw a cat…”

So, how did you come to sculpture?

I came to sculpture by chance. I was attending a drawing class for children at a community child development center called the Palace of Pioneers. A local sculptor who was teaching the class got interested in the structure of my face and he started to mold my portrait. He was the one who convinced me to apply to the department of sculpture at the local art school, and after the seventh grade I applied… This man became my favorite Teacher! 

What were your studies like? What did you learn?

We studied at the school for five years — every day molding clay and drawing from nature. Once I asked the Teacher why he doesn’t teach us to work in wood or stone. The answer was simple: “Everything you can mold, you can cut and carve.” And all my life I am becoming more convinced of the correctness of these words: in my wood and in all grades of stone, my sculptures are not worse than in bronze – and bronze is just a copy of what I mold. This school was followed by six-year education at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow.

I Devoted 11 years to my artistic trade. The trade for me means not something low.  It means something that is a necessity for any artist, musician, or a poet. And the highest level of trade is art!

The highest level of trade is art!

I still have some pictures from your downtown Kishinev outdoor exhibition. Do you want to share with our readers what it was like to work as a sculptor in the USSR?

I have been a sculptor all my life – for 60 years now. In the USSR it was necessary to be a member of the Union of Artists in order to receive orders from the state. The state was the only customer. I was often asked to do a sculpture of Lenin. Because it went well, I got more orders — for statues of Lenin! A private order was for the cemetery only.

Our families went different directions. Mine went to the US, yours to Germany. We left just before the Soviet Union was about to fall apart.  And you?  How did that change things for you?

We left for Germany after the collapse of the USSR. In Moldova, where I lived at that time, the war began, and I am a man of peace.  A lot of surprises were waiting for me in the new country, but the main surprise was that there were no state orders.

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Private orders significantly expanded the themes of sculpture – from animals to portraits. As the themes got more diverse, I could tell stories with my work.

Are you primarily staying in Hanover or do you travel?

While in the USSR, I attended three symposiums in Latvia. Two months of communication with colleagues on a full pension, without the need to think about making money – good! But living in Germany, I discovered a whole world: symposiums in China and Brazil, in France and in Denmark, in Turkey and Austria. Different materials: the oak, the linden, the sandstone, the granite, the marble… It’s always interesting, exciting. You get acquainted with sculptors from all continents, compete with them, and rejoice if your work succeeds!

Rom, are you in touch with friends and colleagues?

Unfortunately, I could not learn German as a native. The language barrier interferes with close communication with German sculptors. My Russian colleagues are scattered around Germany. We meet only at symposiums and large exhibitions. In Hanover, where I have been living for 22 years, I am the only Russian sculptor. I am an optimist, and modern means of communication save me from loneliness.

You wrote me years ago about your Max and Moritz wax sculpture. I understand this presented an unusual challenge.

About Max and Moritz: writer and cartoonist Wilhelm Busch wrote in 1865 a wicked tale about the mischievous boys Max and Moritz, and he himself made illustrations of them. This detail is very important in my story since the public knows these characters only from Busch’s drawings. I received an order from a private wax museum in Austria.

The principle of all wax museums is absolute naturalism, deceitful figures, like living people. Clothing is made from real fabric that would fit the body. The hair, eyes, and teeth are like natural.

And the problem with Max and Moritz?

Max and Moritz are Busch’s caricatures… not mine! It was necessary to make natural boys, recognizable as caricatures without having a life model.  I had to draw a sketch.FullSizeRender45

I worked on them for half a year. It was 2001. For the first time in my life, I dealt with wax. And the client and the public loved the result!

Later, for the same museum, I made the nude figure of Christ on the cross and the Virgin Mary with Mary Magdalene at his feet.

And all these characters are life size?

Of course! God made man in His own image, but I made this Christ in my own image. This is why his height is 170 cm. The only thing is that he is dark haired and I am not. IMG_6314

Where are they today?

Kerzenwelt (World of Candles), the German wax and candle maker, has a private wax museum in Ramsau.

Has living in Germany inspired any other work?

Perhaps the most German work of all was Lorelei.

The first time I saw a picture of Lorelei you sent to me, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing. How did it come to be?

At one of the symposiums, a theme was set: “Legends and Myths”. I recalled about one old German legend…

Once upon a time, in fishing village on the Rhine, there lived a beauty. A rich knight noticed her and took her to his castle. He took a little amusement, and then returned her to the fisherman father. However, the girl fell in love in earnest; all the grooms were driven away by her dreams of the knight. The local bishop ordered her to be taken to the monastery.

On the way, Lorelei asked the guards to let her take a look from the high cliff above the Rhine at the castle where she was happy. And under the cliff a whirlpool was churning. A canoe sailed on the river, and in it Lorelei saw the beloved knight.

She called to him, and the young man raised his eyes and let go of the paddle. And the stream whirled the boat and sank it. Then the girl rushed from the cliff into the river and also died in the waves. And since that time, at sunset, local people began to notice on the rock the ghost of the beauty. She strokes her long golden hair with a comb and sings. Look at her, fisherman or a traveler on a boat, and die in a whirlpool …

Poets have written about the beautiful Lorelei, including the great Heine.


Lorelei by Roman Manevich

I carved out of Carrera marble not a fisher-girl, but that ghost. This is why, she is sexy and naked, with a comb in her hand.

Oh! Roman! What a moving story!  I wish they’d still be alive! Years ago, you sent me a pictureTo hear each other 001 and told me a little about a project you call “To Hear Each Other,” How did they show up?

I first made the initial composition while in the Soviet Union, at the House of Art in Latvia. I molded them 50 cm tall from chamotte (ceramic), and then I glazed them in a kiln. So, I brought them with me to Germany. Once, they were seen at a local exhibition in Hanover and were adopted by a local church.  Being a Godless commie, I was so surprised, and I felt very happy that my screamers found a great home for themselves.Uslyshat'_drug_druga_granit1

In 1998, I finished carving my screamers in granite while in Austria. These are 1.5 meters each. They found a spot for themselves near the gate of a quiet country cemetery in Schwarzenberg, Austria.  You can see a great contrast: they are screaming at the gate of the absolutely quiet cemetery, and they can’t hear each other.

What was your motivation to do them?

It was absolutely philosophical. I am convinced that all wars we have are because people don’t listen to each other. So, they scream and scream something of their own, but they cannot hear the other. And not being able to listen to each other is the main reason for wars – starting with the family and ending with the world.

Not being able to listen to each other is the main reason for wars …

 I won’t ask you to shout and I’ll trust the readers to listen. Would you like to share anything else with them?

At the end, I want to say that my life is very fortunate. I know many people who had to bend, change their lives and their profession due to various circumstances.

I have belonged to sculpture all my life, and am happy with this!

Check out a map of some of Roman’s works.

Link to Roman Manevich’s  Facebook page.

A Path I Didn’t Take


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I shared my story in my book Love Is Never Past Tense, but my life could have gone in a very different direction.  For those who have never gone through it, immigration is only a political problem. All immigration is personal to the immigrant, and each person takes a different path. Today, my old friends help me explore a path I didn’t take. You met them in my Exodus story, but they have a story of their own. They offer a great example of rebuilding lives and contributing to their new homeland. It would have been a great American success story, except they didn’t go to America.

It is very difficult to leave the country where you were born, raised and established yourself as a human being, to relocate even when you relocate to a safer place, to make sure that your family is not threatened by the unpredictability of the next day, and your kids are not in danger. 


Boris and Marina Bubis

In 1989, inspired by my friends Boris and Marina Bubis and motivated by the USSR crumbling around me, my family and I fled the country in search of a brighter future. Boris bravely took the first leg of the train trip with us to help with luggage and see us safely off the Soviet state, putting his own safety at risk by doing so. He escorted us as far as Chop, a border city that required special permits even short visit. We had them – he did not. We were ordered to get off the train with our luggage, where we would need to wait two days for the next train.

Excerpt from Love Is Never Past Tense – Part Three: Exodus

Boris grabs the trunks and carries them to the door.  I go to the conductors. “Guys! What can be done not to make us leave? My mom is sick and I have a child.”

“Nothing,” the boys say. “We’ve been on this route for several years. Everybody leaves. The visas are already collected. We gave them to the customs officers.”

“Boris!” I shout. “Put the trunks back into the compartment!”

“You are out of your mind,” Boris was taken aback. But he drags the bags back. Then he takes off from the train car and hides behind a night train, so as not to be caught by the frontier guards. A person without the special permit is, at the minimum, sent to a prison cell with a long time to figure things out. For us, especially for him, this is not needed.

My story, including the harrowing train trip across Europe, is in the book.  For all I knew, that would be the last time I saw Boris. I had to get back to the train and find a way to survive the next couple days. He had to sneak back home through the country I had just escaped, knowing he could be asked for a permit he didn’t have at any moment,  and find a way out for his own family.

Fortunately, my plan to move to America succeeded and his plan to take his family to Israel did as well. In spite of the chaos, we kept in touch. My exodus story is told in the book. Almost 30 years later, I chatted with my old friends on Skype and I heard their version of what happened after he left us.

Both of them have made their mark on their new home (Israel) and the world at large. During our conversation, Boris masked his courage and expertise with characteristic modesty. Marina offered a bit more about her work and what’s happening with their children—toddlers in my story now grown into adults following in their parent’s footsteps on a path of their own.

J:(Janna) Hi Boris! I am so glad you agreed to the interview! So, I never asked you what happened after you jumped out of the train.  Can you tell me?

B:(Boris) Sure. Practically, nothing exciting. It was November 29. It was around 12 AM or so, and you remember how cold it was outside.  Thank God, I was in a warm jacket!  I was looking for dark corners to hide to be unnoticeable, after I bought a return ticket.  Luckily, the clerk was changing her shift and in a hurry did not ask me for the permit. Still, when I came back home it was a relief. Marina and kids were happy to see me back safe. Remember, at that time we did not have the cell phones?

J: Marina, I am assuming that for you it was very scary to let him go with us to the border. I remember, having this thought, but I did not want to ask you anything about your feelings not to amplify the fear. I thanked you for this in my mind so many times!

Close friends in our culture are the same as family

M:(Marina) Yes, Janna, it was pretty tough, but we are friends, and close friends in our culture are the same as a family. Isn’t it what friends do for you? We were waiting anxiously for him to come back home safely and learn that you left safe. So it happened!

J: I appreciate you, guys, for instilling in me the thought about the departure. I even have this very moment in my book at the time we had a vacation in Crimea:

The days flew cheerfully in Koktebel. In the evenings we gathered at Anna and Vladimir’s home, local residents who provided simple living for people on vacation. We sang songs with a guitar, told jokes, laughed a lot, drank plenty, and ate heartily.

“It is time to split,” Boris said.

“You’ve only arrived! Why do you have to leave?” I asked.

“But not in this sense …” Boris stretches his words in thoughtfulness. “There is no place to come back to, as a matter of fact. Before our departure from home, someone scratched a cross on the door of our house. Do you know what this means?”

“No,” I answer.

“It means, that we are marked by these thugs-nationalists. Nobody stops them. Not law, not government, not militia. Tomorrow a battle cry will resound: Beat the Jews!—And the Holocaust will begin with a new interpretation. And the most repugnant thing is that at work they hint to me about another nominee for my position. Fortunately, they let me go on vacation. They even paid me money. But I think it is just a tribute to good manners. When I return, they will show me to the door.”

Boris broke off, filtering sand through the thin palm of his hand.

Boris knows everything

Boris is my close friend since childhood. He is handsome and very smart. Boris knows everything. Even when he has no answer, he, all the same, knows everything. I knew too, that in Moldova anarchical forces were rising. They are gathering in parks and plazas, crying out chauvinistic slogans: “Moldova—for Moldavians!” All the others—Slavs, Jews, and other ethnic minorities, should in their opinion, leave the country. But I did not give it much thought: they were just youth gatherings, I thought, nothing more …

“Hitler’s Germany began with street processions too. And then six million Jews went to the gallows and to the gas chambers. To leave, it is necessary—you understand, Jannoshka? Or are you immune? ”

“Where to split to, Boris?” I whisper.

“Where? Probably, to Israel. Where else can you split?”

“And what will you do there?”

“I want freedom. I want to live easy!” Boris stands up and with long steps goes to the sea.

In fact, everything is so good: the hot sun, the sea. What slaughter? What gallows? But, in fact, Boris said that. And he knows everything.

“Marin, what do you think on this occasion?”

“I think like Boris,”—was the short answer. It was August 1988.


My last evening in the Soviet Union with my dearest friends Boris & Marina Bubis

Shortly after I came home from that vacation, I found a Star of David scratched in my door 

J: It was tough to understand that you were going in a different direction. Now, when all is quiet, tell me please why you chose Israel over the United States?

M: I doubted whether to go to Israel or to the United States. My aunt, who lived in America, asked Boris’s profession and whether he spoke English. My Mom said ‘He is a very good person.’ My aunt said ‘This is not a profession.’ We understood it would be better to go to Israel. We knew Boris’s parents and sister would not go to America. This is why the vector was directed toward Israel.

B: I felt Israel is closer to my heart and better for me. I had relatives here, cousins, aunts, everybody was here.

J: It means to me that not everybody wants to come to America…

Not everybody wants to come to America…

B: You wanted! You were saying you wanted to live in a free and diverse place. I didn’t have a second thought of going anywhere but Israel. I never wanted to go to America. Maybe, in the United States it’s more comfortable, but I am comfortable here. I am good here! My friends are here! I hope my kids will have nests of their own here.

J: Did you have any moments you were sorry you went to Israel?

B: None.

J: What kind of difficulties did you have when you came to Israel?

B: It’s a bunch of difficulties like everybody else when they relocate for good: language barriers, mental barriers. I didn’t read or write as well as a native speaker. And this was before, and still, the language is not native. Still, I’m sure I made the right decision to move here.

J: Marina, I remember your parents had difficulties to leave. Why?

M: When I was leaving, I practically said farewell to my parents. At that moment, it was absolutely not clear if they could go with us. My Dad had clearance and his dissertation was under clearance as well. It was very problematic that he would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union, even at that time.

J: This is so horrible, so horrible Marina! I can’t even imagine how you felt leaving your parents behind.

M: OK, Janna, I was leaving because I wanted to take the kids out of there, because it was scary to stay there. Do you remember when you came to our house and said pogroms were about to start? By the time of your departure, there started to appear signs of hope that my parents would be able to leave, and my Dad’s classified dissertation was no longer a problem.


Marina’s Mom, Boris, Mark, Ettel, Marina, Marina’s Dad and Nely, Marina’s aunt in Israel (1996)


J: Yes, I remember! This was the time when my family and I, and even our birds in the cage came with us. You guys had a metal door, and it felt safer at your house.  We did not know how long we would stay, and the birds had to be cared for every day. So, we had to bring that screaming crowd in the cage with us.

With everyone safely out of the country and accounted for, our conversation turned to their lives after leaving the Soviet Union. Immigration doesn’t end a story. It merely starts a new chapter.

J: I am sure you could write your own book about your immigration and new life. So, can you please share, Marina, what was the reason that during a long period of time you were flying to the US several times a month? I remember you came to our house for a whole week years ago,  as you were earning your Ph.D. in Biochemistry.

M: I actually came at 1998 at the end of my postdoc. I visited you on my way to the 2 weeks “Cold Spring Harbor course”.

J: Oh! Yes! You were at an International Conference in Las Vegas before that…

M: I presented our company’s work at APS (American Paraplegia Society) – 7-9/09/2004 in Las Vegas.I was working in a team of the cell therapy company named Proneuron. Those times we conducted phase 2 clinical trials in Israel and the US. We worked hard to transfer the experimental technology developed in Israel for the treatment of severe spinal cord injuries to its US manufacturing sites and also flew to take a necessary part in the manufacturing of this therapy for the US patients enrolled in the trial.

J: Marina, what’s going on with your kids, Ettel and Mark? Mark was my best buddy when he was three years old. Do you remember, he listened only to me for some time?

M: Both of them served in the army. Both of them are professionals.  Ettel is in the beginning of her Ph.D.  Mark is studying in Jerusalem University to be an engineer in Electronics.

J: Boris, now, back to you!  I recall that you worked as a worker in Israel, although you were an engineer by profession. I am so proud of you that you became an engineer again!

B: I finished a certification course, and those who went through this program had access to engineering jobs like the one I am doing. It was very hard to start. Everyone who started the course was an engineer already. At the beginning, we were just workers. After a few years, we got back to our engineering positions.

J: When I visited you guys in Israel a couple of years ago you took me to the 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem and you shared your role in it.


Janna Yeshanova & Marina Bubis, 2014

I was so proud of you that you had such an input into world peace, Boris! This makes me feel closer to Israel. 9/11 was so shocking to me as a US citizen!  It shook the whole world! How did you become the Quality Engineer for this world monument?

B: Janna, it’s so simple. Do you know how many huge projects I had?  This one has a big significance, but by volume, I have bigger works. For me, it’s just my job. During this project, I learned how to solve some technical problems we were trying to solve. I had the blueprints for this Memorial, and I had to make sure they were followed.


Boris Bubis at the 9/11 Living Memorial, 2014

J: What about this project was special for you?

There are plaques with three thousand names on this monument


Commemorative plaque on the base of the Monument

B: There are plaques with three thousand names on this monument, and I found the name of my friend who died on 9/11. He was an architect and we worked together for the same company back in the Soviet Union. We weren’t close friends, but …


Someone told me that he died or disappeared…  His name was Adik Zaltsman. He was a gorgeous young man. He was very talented and goal oriented.

By the way, the architect of this project is the son of parents from Moldova.

J: This is a huge thing, Boris. We started new lives being adults. We did not play Four Square in these countries as kids. And suddenly you were responsible for engineering works, quality engineering for a monument important to Israel, to America and to the whole globe.


The 9/11 Memorial in Jerusalem

B: There are a million people like me. There could have been another person working on this Monument.

J: And instead of Yuri Gagarin there could have been a different person as well!  Yes, Boris? And you and me could have been different people too!  But we are who we are, and WE do what WE do! We live in the free countries we chose, and we are talking now without being threatened.  So, we made it, Boris! WE, Boris, made it!

So there you have it, the path I didn’t take but others did. Immigration is always personal and always painful. I hope that our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, will know of immigration only through old stories!

Dirty Bomb Film


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Today, I am talking with Valerie McCaffrey.  She is a producer and Casting Director in Hollywood  with dozens of film credits.  She  recently shared her new project with me, and I decided to introduce it to you.  In light of the current events it’s hard not to mention that Valerie is the third generation of immigrants to the US.


Valerie McCaffrey

I want once again to stress the point that people come from other countries not because they just decided to take another trip, to forget their culture, their social level, or to leave their friends behind.  Those who are lucky not to have this experience need to know that it takes a lot of courage to go through these tremendous changes and adjust to a new culture.  Valerie is an example of how immigrants, even generations later, contribute to their new culture that in time becomes native.
We have a common interest in socially relevant stories, which is why her latest project touched me. If you are interested in seeing films that matter produced, I hope you’ll join her Indiegogo campaign mentioned at the end of this article.
Please meet Valerie!

Valerie, when we met at the Columbus Film Festival you shared with me that your grandparents are from Armenia.  What was the reason that they left?

My grandparents are survivors of the Armenian genocide in 1915. Religious profiling happened both in the Armenian and Jewish community. It was horrific.

Dirty Bomb is a Jewish prisoner trying to survive, but in the end he secretly saves the lives of others by sacrificing his own. I want to tell that story.

So, tell us about your latest film project.

“Dirty Bomb” based on a true story… Signing his own death wish, a Jewish concentration camp prisoner sabotages the construction of the V-2 bomb against the Nazis, while American soldiers struggle to advance against the Germans.

dirtybombvintage7psdThere are so many stories during the war, this one is essentially unknown. I want to bring them to life and light. v-2missileHere is a very little known fact: Werner Van Braun, who designed this V-2 missile, designed the Apollo 13 space shuttle. Hitler took advantage of Van Braun’s passion for space travel, which ended up killing thousands of soldiers while 200 Jewish prisoners were hung for the sabotage causing the bomb to misfire.v2

How will you promote the film? 

I plan on doing a festival run and develop into a feature. Whiplash was developed that way.

Where and how do you plan to distribute it? 

Online, HBO, Sundance channel are all possibilities. Also, schools, museums.

Who is involved in the project?

Bob Shaye, former owner CEO of New Line is one contributor—he is our Associate Producer. We have wonderful actors such as Ido Samuel from “Fill the Void”, (the largest grossing Israeli film in the US) Christopher Heyerdahl from Twilight, J. Michael Trautmann from Shameless.

I understand the current phase is being paid by crowd funding?

Indiegogo is a site where crowd funding makes things happen and making this short film, is one of the many projects Indiegogo supports.  The goal is to get the community involved in this  project— they believe in it and support the story. Each project has a deadline to raise contributions. Our end date is February 28. Here’s a brief video that explains it all. https://youtu.be/CypSN8Het3Y

What’s the goal for this Indiegogo campaign?

The goal is to raise enough money to create/build the concentration camp and tunnel where the V-2 bomb was built. I want to develop this story into a film. There is interest now.

How can readers get involved?

Readers can contribute money to make it happen. Even from $10.00 on up-anyone can be involved and receive a perk from the movie!  As the film begins shooting, we will keep everyone in the loop on the progress.  It will be everyone’s film.

Join the Indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dirty-bomb-film-pt-2-history#/

Valerie’s IMDB Bio: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0564559/?ref_=nv_sr_1

IMDB link for Dirty Bomb  https://pro-labs.imdb.com/title/tt6342324?s=8ead22f6-db34-2d05-8150-e63800ae79af


What Willpower Won’t Power

Happy New Year!

This time of year, people set resolutions with good intentions, but their lofty goals often get abandoned.  Does it need to be the fate of our goals?

Today, I talk with my friend and my Life-Spark, LLC business partner, Jay Elkes. After a long career as a software developer, Jay has switched to thinking about systems that make life better. Recently, he blogged about one of his key strategies on his personal blog, and I’m excited to share his thinking with you.

Jay, your article focuses on a topic we are both interested in — achieving goals, which you’re taking it one more step to maintain the result.

That’s right, Janna. Anybody can set a goal.

Many people can achieve it. When it comes to lifestyle goals, the real challenge is maintaining the results.

About five years ago, I re-engineered my life to lose 35 pounds, and I’ve kept it off ever since. I did this over a period of six months without name-brand diet plans, medical supervision, or surgery. I didn’t understand what I had stumbled into at the time, but I recently recognized the underlying principle to my success.

Why don’t we, Jay, start with the moment you decided to take action? What was going through your mind?fullsizerender

In April, 2011 I wanted to lose some weight . I lost a couple pounds right away, but then I started coasting. Over the next six months I lost another six pounds. Any progress I made was quickly overwhelmed by moments of celebration.

By the end of October, I realized that at that rate it would take me years to get to my target. I decided to make it a formal goal, complete with measurable targets and a plan. I wrote out the plan in a Moleskine pocket notebook that I still have today.


Jay’s Plan from 2011

So what did you decide?

I set a specific target weight to achieve over a period of three months and outlined what I was going to do to achieve it. This was a classic SMART goal and I used every trick I know to make it happen.


S –  Specific
M – Measureable
A – Action oriented
R – Realistic
T – Time bound

I have used SMART goals before and after, but this was one of the clearest examples I’ve seen. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I missed the target by a couple months.

Was that a problem in this case?


In this case, no. Nobody else was depending on my result and I was pleased with my progress. The real issue would come later. Anyone can set a goal, and a lot of people can achieve it. I knew from the start that I could reach my target weight, but the real goal was to maintain it long term.

You’re talking about a lifestyle goal. Correct?

Exactly. If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, you can do that, check the goal off as done, and pick another destination for your next trip. Reaching a target weight is a great feeling, but it’s just another data point on a graph of maintaining health. I waned to change my life to maintain that weight. Today, almost five years later, I wrote about my success and why I’ve succeeded this long.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What exactly do you mean by success?

When I checked my weight this morning, the scale reported 153.8 pounds. For my height of 5’9″, this maps to a body mass index of 22.7 — perfect according to even my fussy primary care doctor whom I see once a year for a checkup. Even better, I’ve maintained that weight since ending a diet that dropped 35 pounds in 2011-2012. What I realized this year is that back then, more by dumb luck than insight, is the master key to long term success.

Willpower won’t power long term success

I’ve known you long enough to see the result. If willpower wasn’t the answer, what did you do?

I began with exercise. mostly walking…

Yes! I remember, you shared this with me.  I also remember that I asked you “How did you make it, Jay?  And you said:

Walking  is a two-step process: you take a step with one foot, then a step with the other, then repeat five thousand times (for 10,000 steps) a day.

This took willpower at first, but after a few weeks it became habit and finally I enjoyed it. If I miss a day now, I regret it. I also know that one hour at a fast food restaurant destroys several hours of exercise.

Come on, Jay! It can’t be all exercise!  Can it?

fullsizerender111Losing weight is 20% exercise and 80% diet. About half the diet effort is cutting out the stupid habits.  First, I cut from my meals (and my snacks) the items that were totally self-destructive. A burger, fries and coke can provide 1700 calories in a meal. Replace that with a grilled chicken sandwich, a small salad and water and your calorie count is at most 600. I used willpower to make good choices until good choices became a habit.

Then you recommend both diet and exercise?

Correct diet can help you lose weight, correct exercise will make you fit. Weight control and fitness are two separate but related goals. If you want both results, you need to do both.

You’ve already said that willpower doesn’t do the job. What’s the missing piece?
What I didn’t catch at the time was that over time I went from applying willpower to adopting healthy habits, and from there to craving them. Lots of walking became a habit, then a reward in itself.

Do you have any tips on the diet side?

Use your willpower to fight the biggest problem. For me, it was too many calories in liquid form. The most effective rule I had was don’t drink your calories. Today, I’d say make a habit of not drinking your calories.

So, what’s wrong with willpower?

When it comes to goals, willpower eventually loses to the power of won’t. Buddha said “In the confrontation between the rock and the stream the stream always wins, not because of strength but because of persistence.”


Willpower can’t last long enough to power persistence. It can power you long enough to reshape habits and habits are the tools of persistence. When you crave the walk and happily select the salad, you’ve won the game.

So you need both willpower and habits?

Think of it this way. Use willpower like tinder to start a fire. Use habits like firewood to keep it going long term.

Thank you Jay. Where can my readers can get more inspiration from you

I blog at  https://jayelkes.wordpress.com/ and tweet as @jayelkes. You can also look for me on LinkedIn. You can see my blog post on this topic here.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to change your habits and use your willpower to get the process started.

Hey, Jay!  Why won’t you show us  your trick with the belt?

O! This is my favorite!  In 2011 this is the belt I was wearing, and it felt uncomfortably tight! I’ll let the result speak for itself.

Be the stream. If you want help plotting the course of your stream, we can help.

Contact: http://www.life-spark.com
Twitter: @JannaYeshanova
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lifesparkllc/

Love Is Never Past Tense – Amazon Kindle Winter Sale!

It was as if they had been apart only a day – ENJOY Love Is Never Past Tenseaca33-22031165   $1.99 


My novel Love Is Never Past Tense is  a modern day Russian romance/drama/elevated genre. The book has great reviews on Amazon and recently it was a bestseller there in its category. It has been adapted it into a screenplay titled Russian for “Love”.

photofunia-1468626837This true story is part biography, part history, but mostly a second chance romantic adventure.

Like Gone With The Wind we see a society collapse through the eyes of a generation growing up in privilege before tragedy struck, working to adapt and survive when the world changed around them. Both stories rely on a strong female leading character.

Like The Notebook, this is a story which stretches over a lifetime. Both books start with the couple having a summer romance, and both couples are torn apart by interfering parents who disapprove of their child’s selected partner.

Like In The Time if Cholera, it is a story of frustrated love that spans the adult life of the couple involved. Unlike this is not a love triangle story. Both are essentially second chance romances. Both stories use the characters as a lens to examine their respective cultures.

Below is an excerpt from the letter of JW Myers, the director and producer of The Christmas Tree Miracle, The Pledge and others. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0616734/

“The characters are engaging and interesting, and it genuinely hooked me, and kept me interested through the entire read. I really enjoyed it. It’s an old-fashioned love story with an original twist of modern history and intrigue woven in …”

The book has been endorsed by the Director of the Columbus Jewish Film Festival. It is available on request.jewish-film-festival-director-columbus-oh-endorsement-letter-emily

It was as if they had been apart only a day – ENJOY Love Is Never Past Tense   $1.99 


Laura Camara – A Voice of Independent Music


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As you know, I occasionally interview my talented friends and acquaintances.  Recently I attended  Laura Camara’s concert and I was impressed by her voice, her stage presence and her connection with the audience.  My conversation with Laura took place several days after the concert.gk0b1541-edit-1

Laura Camara is an award winning jazz vocalist, winning second place in New York City’s Jazzmobile Vocal Competition. Laura has also performed at top jazz venues and festivals around the world such as The Montreux Jazz Festival, The Boston Pops Jazz Festival, and the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the John F. Kennedy National Center for the Performing Arts. She has recently returned from an extended Asian Tour throughout Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. Performing for the US Embassy and State department, The Royal Thai family, and headlining The Ubud Village Jazz Festival in Bali, Indonesia. In addition to live performances Laura has been a featured profiled artist on WGBH Boston’s National Public Radio and famous New York City Web Series Capsulocity.  Laura hails from Columbus, and I was fortunate to catch a performance on her home turf.

Singing was your childhood dream. How does real life compare to it?

halloween93One of them yes. I thought I would be a Broadway star in New York or a street artist in Paris. I was always involved in the arts one way or another. Music was always something that I could just do. There are videos of me at three years old singing Opera to Gloria Estefan on our fireplace. The thrill of performing is still there but as an adult and a professional it is a bit different than I thought. As a kid you think it will be all creating and performing, but the truth is 80% of my work is logistics: emailing, booking, budgeting, marketing strategies– but that justmakes the creative part more rewarding.

What is the part you enjoy most about your work?

Sounds simple but…playing together. There is this moment when you work with a great band where, without any verbal or visual communication, you hear each other. You actually hear who they are! Then you begin speaking to each other through the music. Somehow everyone just clicks! And you end up taking the music and the audience to places you didn’t know you could go.songsofmyfather1

“I think about the story I want to tell first.”

How do you select material when you compose a song?

Well I’d have to say I think about the story I want to tell first. With my compositions, the music is usually composed to emphasize the message of the song. Even if it isn’t my own composition, I listen to the lyrics and, if I feel connected to the story, I find a way to make it my own. I like to pull material from any genre because to me genre is irrelevant when you have a sound that is yours and yours alone.

“Genre is irrelevant when you have a sound that is yours and yours alone.”

So Laura, do you compose and arrange all your material yourself?

Yes for the most part. Occasionally I will collaborate but I do compose my originals and arrangements on my own.

What are you most known for as an artist?

Right now I am perhaps best known for my ability to do what we call scat singing which is a way that jazz vocalist freely improvise alternate melodies without words. I travel internationally giving master classes on the subject. I am also known for my jazz arrangements of pop and rock & roll classics.

What would you like to be known for, Laura?

I would like my music to serve a greater purpose in the world. As artists, we have a unique ability to move and unite people. I feel we have a responsibility to use our art to speak out for the things that matter and spread positivity. If I can help make the world a better place with my art I will be happy.

Laura, is there one performance that stands out in your memory you’d like to share?

There are a few. Janna. Performing at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC was a great one. I did, just last year, get to perform for   the late King of Thailand’s Birthday Celebration with The Royal Family in attendance which was a huge honor. However the performance that I am most proud of is a show that I wrote produced and performed last year at the American Cultural Center in Jakarta, Indonesia. The show is called “Songs Of My Father; Music of The Flower Generation”


Laura Camara performing at the late King of Thailand Birthday Celebration

It is a multimedia show that tells the story of what happened in America in the 1960’s told through video, photo images, live interviews, and most importantly the music.

Is there one place you haven’t performed that is at the top of your bucket list?

Carnegie Hall would be nice….

Then, I’ll count on two seats at your first concert there. OK?  What projects do you have coming up?

I am working on the release of my debut solo album titled “My Ascension,” named for my most popular composition. I am very excited about it. It will be mostly my original compositions with a few arrangements of some popular songs. It is going to be a deeply personal record, showing people exactly who I am and what I am about. I am still booking my original show “Songs Of My Father” I am also working on creating a new multimedia show featuring other singers and women in jazz called “SHE”. I like to stay busy.

What do you see for yourself professionally in the next year or two?

Where do I see myself? Well…Definitely traveling from place to place and making beautiful music. Promoting my album and making socially relevant music, connecting with new people and hopefully spreading some joy and positive messages. On some big international stages for sure.

When should we expect your album out?

I am in the recording phase right now. We plan to have it out by Christmas of 2017.

Is there anything , Laura, you would like to ask from the readers?

I would ask the readers two things: Go support independent art any way you can and go out in the world and spread some love to everyone you meet.laura1

… and how would you describe your musical style?

Well I would describe as modern jazz vocals with a twist. I like to think of it as modern jazz harmonies, with singer songwriter lyrics, and electric grooves from hip hop to samba.

I have an impression  that you play other instruments.  Is this true?

Yes. I play piano, guitar, drums, and violin. I just don’t play all of them in my concerts I use them to help me compose mostly.

Is there somewhere our readers can hear a sample of your singing?

gk0b1742-edit-2Yes. You can go to my website:  lauracamaramusic.com  or look me up on YouTube as Laura Camara. I will have a new video series coming out that i have been working on of some solo vocal harmonies. They can also follow me on Facebook, and on Twitter as @LCamaraMusic

Throughout your career, Laura, what has meant the most to you?

That’s easy. Absolutely, the ability to travel and to experience something beyond my realm of understanding. I have been fortunate enough to not only travel but spend extended periods of time in many different countries. Places where I play with musicians who don’t even speak the same language as me and somehow we understand each other. We don’t need words to communicate. I have been welcomed into homes and been cared for by people whom I have never met before. What I have realized through all of this is that… in the end it’s just people!

That is all. We are all connected to each other in more ways than we are different. It has made me more compassionate and understanding and given me the ability to love on a level I never expected.

What are some your favorite places you have traveled for your music?

Well I have gone to some interesting places, Janna. Of course I loved Switzerland and France but I loved Vietnam, India, & Bali. I like to perform in unusual places. That way, I get to see more of the world.laura

Laura’s Press Kit Video


Live from jazz for the King of Thailand Concert. My arrangement of “The Rainbow Connection” which will be featured on my debut album:


Rosalind Winton’s Link From The Past

My project to produce a movie from my book Love Is Never Past Tense led me to Stage 32, an online community of 500,000 creatives. When I started to engage with them, an editor invited me to write an article for their blog. I responded enthusiastically (see the article here), which started an email exchange with Rosalind Winton. Rosalind is an editor and lyricist from “across the pond” and we became friends.

After Rosalind read my book, she shared a story from a few branches back along her family tree. When I realized it included a historic event and a song she has written, it was time to invite her to my blog.

Hi Rosalind! Tell us please how your song about the Titanic came about?


Rosalind Winton recording The Bear On Lonely Lake audio story


I’m so glad you asked me that question, as I absolutely love talking about this; you might want to grab a coffee or something for this story. My Paternal Great Grandfather Harry Corn died on the Titanic. He was married to Rebecca, and they had two daughters Stella and Fay who were about six and four years old respectively. They wanted to travel to America to reunite Rebecca with her family; they had been split up after migrating from Russia. Some of the family went to America and some, including Rebecca, had come to London. They sold their successful upholstery business and bought four tickets for Titanic, but near to the time they were due to leave, one of the girls became ill and couldn’t go. So, it was decided Harry would go on ahead and the rest of the family would follow later. Of course, he never arrived.

The story of Titanic has always meant a great deal to me and I had always wanted to write a lyric about it, but over the years, everything I tried to do just wasn’t right. I was never happy with the outcomes.

One day, Mick Cooper whom I was working with on some songs said “I have a challenge for you!” He wanted me to write a lyric about something “that wasn’t human”. He said it could be about anything at all, as long as it wasn’t human.

I love a challenge, and for many weeks I wrestled with his idea. I tried out all sorts of different connotations on a theme.

One day, I was looking at Harry’s picture, and it hit me: Titanic isn’t human! I’d write about that. Weeks and months went by…  I kept trying, hoping one day I’d have a eureka moment. And it came! It came during the final of the Wimbledon tennis championships. Right at the end of the match, the winner was walking around the court, holding up his trophy.  The audience was applauding. The press was taking photos. All of a sudden, in my mind’s eye, I saw the Titanic superimposed on the TV screen, and the chorus for the lyric suddenly appeared in my head, in its entirety. I grabbed a pen and wrote it down. It was perfect and from there I wrote two verses and a bridge. I decided to put a twist on the whole challenge and write the lyric so that the Titanic came across as human. Within half an hour, I had the whole lyric, I showed it to Mick. He loved it and he composed beautiful music to it.  Mick’s friend John Paul McCrohon has provided a stunning vocal. The song has since gone on to win a Merit Award at the Portsmouth Music Festival in 2001. It’s been aired on the radio and played at Titanic Exhibitions. I am so proud of this song!

Rosalind! I am so proud of you too! My congratulations! Can you share the lyric for us?

You can view a video of it here. Here’s the lyric…


Lyrics to A Beautiful Lady – Titanic

Tell us a bit about your lyric writing.

I’ve been writing for over 30 years and enjoyed some lovely achievements. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of my songs performed live on stage, I’ve won awards at music festivals, written lyrics for school plays, solo artists and studio vocalists. I’ve also written for as yet unsigned musicals, which is something I really love doing. My biggest ambition is to write for film. I hope to fulfill that dream one day. Writing my lyrics is something I’ve always been extremely passionate about. I’ve worked in recording studios, overseeing the production of my songs and this is where I get to direct talented musicians and vocalists, people I’ve had so much pleasure working with. It’s the most incredible experience! What I love most, is starting off with a blank page and an idea, and building on that until it finally becomes a fully produced song. There’s really nothing like it. You can see more on the music page to my website.

So, Ros, who has been your main inspiration?

Without a doubt, the genius that is Barry Manilow. When I first discovered him, I was about 17 years old, and I had been writing for a couple of years. I bought Barry’s first album and as I listened to the songs on the album, I realized that was how I wanted to write my lyrics.

I spent hours studying the lyrics of all Barry’s songs. I learned a great deal doing that, especially about structure and timing. Barry also gives his songs big, musical theatre type endings. I realized very early on, that’s how I wanted to write my songs, using the time to ‘say something’, tell a story or portray a feeling and build the song right up if appropriate. I have been a lifelong fan of Barry’s, I learn from him all the time, he’s an incredible performer, writer, arranger. When I write my lyrics, I think of Barry as an imaginary gauge to how I’m doing. I ask myself if I think a lyric I am writing is good enough to show to Barry. If the answer comes back ‘yes’, that is really good, if it comes back ‘no’, I go to re-write mode. Barry has always been encouraging in his messages to his fans and audiences about never giving up, being positive and believing in yourself, which has really helped. I have met Barry a few times. The last time was in New York for a talk he was giving about writing for musical theatre. There was a meet and greet afterwards, and I was able to tell him that I write,  that he has always been my inspiration, and how much I have learned from him over the years.

We met because of your editing work at Stage32.com. You also offer freelance editing as One Voice Literary Agency. How do you describe your editing work?onevoice

Publishers have their own editors and proof readers, but my aim is to inspire, advise and help new authors and those who are already in the process of writing, to reach a high standard of professionalism that will encompass everything a publisher or producer will look for on a first read-through.

I have an excellent understanding of what publishers expect to receive from authors. I also help authors write synopses of their work, the all important covering letters and advice on submitting manuscripts to publishers.

What work do you take on, what do you look for when deciding whether or not to take on a project?

It doesn’t really matter what the subject is, or what the genre is, I work on presentation, spelling, grammar, format if it’s a screenplay, continuity, and character and story development. It could be an epic novel or a short article, a psychological thriller, romance or children’s picture book.

What final message do you have for our readers?

Do what you love, find a way, even if it seems impossible and even if it means you won’t reach the top, do it anyway. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t, believe in what you do and grab any opportunity that taps you on the shoulder.

OK, Rosalind. It was a pleasure talking with you. Thanks for visiting us and thanks for sharing your interesting story about your great-grandfather Harry and Titanic.

http://www.onevoiceliteraryagency.com/ https://www.facebook.com/OneVoiceLiteraryAgency/?fref=ts http://www.onevoiceliteraryagency.com/my-music.html  https://www.stage32.com/home/

365 Ideas To Go From Good To Great On TWITTER! Interview with John Sparks


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Today’s conversation is with John Sparks, the author of 365 Ideas To Go From Good To Great On TWITTER! and an expert on the use of Social Media as a promotion tool. I learned several things when consulting with him that this article shares with you.

Hello John. Thanks for coming. Let’s start with a question I could put in a tweet: What do you do?

johnsparksHello hello Janna! I wear so many hats sometimes it’s tough knowing where to start. I’m a nationally recognized social media power influencer, best-selling author, keynote speaker, and a social media coach and consultant. I’m CEO of a social media coaching and consulting company called Online ImageWorks. With my company, I work with just about anyone you can think of helping them to build buzz about their brand and reach their business goals by using the power of social media. Finally, I am a teacher and professor. I have taught college level courses as an adjunct professor in advertising, journalism, and online journalism.

Tell us more about your coaching.

I truly have a passion for people. I don’t believe in a cookie cutter; one size fits all approach to my social media coaching. Everyone has different needs and learning styles. I customize the way I do my coaching to specifically meet the needs, learning styles, and challenges of those I work with. Although my specialty is Twitter and I’ve been called the “Twitter Go-To Guy”, I also do coaching and consulting on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and just about any social media channel you can think of. I work with newbies, intermediate users, and advanced users. I not only teach my clients and those I work with how to use social media, but I also teach them strategies on how to be more productive at using social media and get a greater return on the time they are spending online.

Who is your ideal client?

Anyone who has an interest in social media and learning more about it!

Why do you focus on Twitter?

Glad we have more than 140 characters to flush this one out! Whenever I’m speaking with groups, one of the first things I hear over and over again is that people don’t understand Twitter! The funny part is, up until 4 years ago I didn’t either.

I signed up for Facebook in ‘07, LinkedIn in ‘08, and Twitter in ’09, but my main focus for being on social media was for professional networking. I always thought LinkedIn was best for professional networking because this is how LinkedIn brands themselves. So I was all about LinkedIn. Fast forward to 2012, I was going through a career change and was checking out profiles on LinkedIn. I came across the page of someone who’s now a good friend of mine who stated they were a “Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer”. Wow, I thought to myself, that would be a nice title to have and if I could make a living at doing it, it would be even better. So I started looking into people who were social media influencers and found where they had hundreds and thousands of followers on Twitter, Sparks had less than 800 and if I wanted to have that title I needed to do something about Twitter. So I started looking deep into the purpose of each of the social media networks and learning what they were about and how to use them effectively.

During this process, what I learned about Twitter was that:

Unlike the traditional ways of connecting with others on Facebook and LinkedIn where you have to send a request to someone and they have to accept it in order to communicate, with Twitter, you can get your message out to people and you don’t necessarily have to be following them and they don’t have to be following you for them to receive that message.

  1. Where Linkedin’s User Agreement specifically states you’re only supposed to send LinkedIn connection requests to people you know…and Facebook was designed for friends connecting with friends through a “Friend Request” …the follower/following relationship on Twitter makes it the better platform for connecting with people you don’t know.
  2. Twitter can be great for SEO because Twitter and Google have a strong relationship.
  3. Studies show that almost ¾ of one’s followers will amplify content for free by Retweeting it, and almost half plan to make multiple purchases from the small and medium sized-businesses they follow on Twitter, making it a terrific platform for both personal brands and businesses.

These are just a couple of the reasons I focus on Twitter!

What do you focus on when creating a brand?

Always focus on the people behind the brand first. Brands are only as strong as the people who represent them and make up the brand.

How do you select people to follow?

It’s a tricky process. I select people to follow with the intention of forming a direct relationship with them, the people they follow, or the people who are following them. That being said, I’m also a strong believer in doing unto others. If I follow someone and they don’t follow me back, then after a certain period of time I will typically unfollow them. After I unfollow them, If I am still interested in that person’s content, I will add them to a Twitter list where I can monitor their feeds and don’t have to follow them. I don’t believe in following others for the sake of adding followers to someone’s follower count. I do it with the purpose of building relationships and relationships are a two-way street.

What was the inspiration for your book 365 Ideas To Go From Good To Great On TWITTER!

I wanted a tool to share with others how I went from less than 800 followers to where I’m at now. I wanted it to be something that was easy to understand and that people could pick up, put down, take with them, and refer back to.

At one level the book is about Twitter, but at another level the book is about so much 365-ideasmore! Many of the principles and tips in the book can be applied and used on the other social media platforms as well. Get the book on Amazon and you’ll see!

 Where can people find out more about you?

 Janna, I’m a true believer in authentic, one-on-one relationships! Anyone interested in finding out more about me can contact me directly at IAmJohnSparks@gmail.com and I will reply back. They can also reach out to me on Twitter @IAmJohnSparks and find me on most of the other social media channels by doing a search for IAmJohnSparks . For those that are interested in reading more about my background they can Google IAmJohnSparks or go to my website at IAmJohnSparks.com.

 Thanks for visiting. It was a pleasure and I’m sure our readers will find your tips valuable.



Love and Care – For Yourself!

Today’s guest is Michele the Trainer!  I had the pleasure of being interviewed by her on her podcast recently. We talked after the recording was over, and I became fascinated by her mission.  I offered her several questions on various topics related to the most important factor that drives the World forward…
MicheleTheTrainer InternetSo, here is Michele!  You are welcome to share your thoughts below her interview. It will be an interesting conversation.

“What does Love and care mean to you? Can you share an example?”

Janna Yeshanova

 Answer by Michele the Trainer:

The existence of love is agreed on by everyone, though we can’t see it or measure it.

Love is when we really care about another being. Lust is when someone is only self-serving.

So what is self? Without getting too airy fairy, we should have some idea of what we think self is.  The ability to wonder that differentiates us from animals.

Who We Are

We can’t love unless we really identify with who we are.

Our uniqueness is our spirit, our soul. But are we feeding that? Are we caring for our soul by engaging in spiritual activities?

Doesn’t love come from our heart and soul? I think so because people sing about that all the time!

Our bodies are a vehicle for our soul. Are we caring for our body?

How can we really help someone else if we are neglecting our own root thoughts and core beliefs about who we are?

The heart of loving and caring for others is the realization that a person’s own health and self-care IS the heart, or foundation of their ability to love and care.

Caring for Ourselves

Self-care is not selfish, it’s our responsibility. Even in the greatest oldest spiritual texts there are some suggestions for self-care.

Loving is caring, and we can’t love and care unless we are taking care of ourselves. Our bodies, the vehicle for our good deeds, requires care.  Self-care is often neglected.

Often the excuse of caring for someone else replaces the act of self-care.

Sometimes a person requires care because they neglected self-care, for example, complications from a disease of lifestyle such as diabetes or cardiac issues. If that person had cared for themselves, then some caregiving could have been avoided.  We can remind the caregiver to care for themselves too, so that the destructive cycle of no self-care changes course.

Caring for Others

With my wellness business, I take care of a lot of people, who take care of a lot of people, to some level or another; CEOs, Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Parents, Caregivers, etc. In order to do that I have to take care of myself. I often get clients who KNOW they should be taking care of themselves and just need some help getting there (accountability).  Folks who care for others soon realize that their own health is the keystone.

 Folks who care for others soon realize that their own health is the keystone.

 Consider advocating for the earth, the oceans, the rainforests, the trees or animals. Can we be a voice for animals if we are careless with ourselves?  How can we educate others on protecting the earth if we aren’t well? The healthier and more energy we have, the more we can protect those who don’t have a voice, like animals, or oceans and rainforests.

I write a lot about the ocean. Those articles are read by folks who often have never seen the ocean.  If I’m not well enough to do my ocean activities to inspire my writing, I would not be able to share those thoughts, feelings, information and observations.

Lust or Love?

If we have relationships with people who are self-serving, it’s like lust, no matter if it’s personal or business (for example, businesses, including big and small businesses, we choose with that are only focused on money).

When someone actually cares, and isn’t self-serving, we can better hear suggestions to help us that come from love, not self-serving or lust, we can listen and choose to apply. Just like when someone speaks or writes from the heart, we are more likely to pay attention.

We can use a fitness example:

Business serving-

If someone pays a personal trainer that works for a large gym, it’s all about the money, a monthly financial quota that trainer is trying to make. Of course we might meet or know an individual here or there that cares, but it’s not the priority of the core business.

There are so many examples of businesses in all categories where the business comes before the customer’s care. We all need to be reminded of this!

 Serving others-

How can I help YOU?  I started my fitness/wellness business from the heart, because I cared to help others. I avoid those big gym models because keeping my priorities is my priority.  I maintain an authentic focus on helping others.

I listen to my clients and together we find ways that they can accommodate their self-care. They listen too.  They know that working with me is about them, because I do care.

Also consider, if I were sick or weak I wouldn’t be able to help anyone. My own self-care is imperative, as is yours!

Create a cycle of love and care

Self-care allows us to care more for more entities, resulting in more love all around. This creates good energy and a good example for others.

People that feel better are usually happier and that also creates good vibrations.

If we don’t care for ourselves we run the risk of enabling diseases of lifestyle or just feeling crappy which affects our attitude and vibe.

There is no requirement to love and care for a zillion people or animals.

Authentic self-care is enough to show some kindness here and there!

True love and care is immeasurable and can be exponentially beneficial!

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