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Saturday, November 19, 2011

PROFILE: Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman


by Cyrus Webb

It was during the summer of 2010 that I first heard about the work that Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman were doing to help veterans and their families through their book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE. Heidi Clingen, an author who had appeared on my radio show that year, made the introduction for us through email, and I would have them on Conversations LIVE to discuss their work.

Chaplains Bill and Anne Bowman have been married 16 years and have dedicated their lives to helping others find solutions in their time of need. It was during the writing of a thesis, however, that Bill's need for help was brought to the forefront. A Vietnam veteran, the couple had been dealing with trying to get Bill's benefits for quite some time. Their experience and the information they gleaned along the way became the catalyst behind the book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE.

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks was nearing, I wanted to talk with the couple about their journey and how they are now helping veterans all around the country.


What led to you two teaming up to write the book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE?
Anne Bowman: When Bill was studying for his Master's in Divinity degree, he wrote of his experiences trying to get his benefits as his master's thesis. It was a very frustrating time for both of us and the book was born out of that thesis and our experiences dealing wit the maze that is called the Veterans Administration.

Bill Bowman: I became involved in helping other veterans because of my frustrations, the insults, the misleading paperwork and the purposeful delays by the Department of Veteran's Affairs during the VA disability process that caused me to realize that many veterans, especially those with PTSD, would give up due to the unneeded stress put on them by the system. God has given me the desire and the skills to work with my military brothers and sisters to help them gain the benefits that they and their families earned.

Because of the wars being fought today we have soldiers of all ages and backgrounds coming home changed forever. What do we need to know about those who sign up to protect our country and their needs?
A.B.: There are a lot more women fighting for our freedom today but the guidelines that were written were not written for them, especially when it comes to situations like pregnancy and rape. The treatment for our women warriors is not as sensitive as it should be, especially when dealing with rape issues, which are numerous. I strongly doubt there is any military personal returning from battle who does not have PTSD, which is finally being recognized for what it is. Unfortunately, not enough is being done to work with veterans from our past wars and make the process easier for them. Most importantly, though, is to make sure the families of our warriors do not expect the same person to return as the one who left. They may look the same but they will not be the same and that is PTSD.

B.B.: As in all wars, the returning veterans are not the same persons that went to war. Their families, upon their return, do not understand the returning veteran. Most, when returning, have PTSD and their families are not prepared for the changes in them. Because of the changes, so,e family members are afraid of the veteran. This can, and does, lead to families asking the veteran to find a place to live and become homeless. If married, many veterans are divorced and many because of the misunderstood effects of PTSD are placed in custody for crimes of violence and frustration.

I want to ask you a question that many of our readers will be interested in response. Do you think we fully appreciate and understand the sacrifice made by soldiers and their families today?
A.B.: The country as a whole, and those of us who are older, certainly do appreciate the sacrifices made by both the military and their families, because we have a point of reference. Those of us who are older know what it means when someone in the family goes off to war because many of us grew up when our country had the draft. Unfortunately, that was removed in the 60's and our country's downward spiral started. I truly don't think the younger generation can appreciate what our military is doing for them because they don't have a reference point as to the sacrifices that are being made. They take too much for granted and too many are not willing to fight for the freedom that they cherish which is, in many cases, the reason that they came to this country.

B.B: Many persons, because of how the Vietnam veterans were received upon their return from the war when they were spit on, learned and have an appreciative, positive and supportive attitude. Many will never support the military and/or their families. I have a member of my wife's family who will always put me down for serving. The country, as a whole, does support the military. The young Americans not serving are too busy playing games and trying to keep up a status (symbol) to care about others. The important question should be does the government, Department of Veteran's Affairs and those n power provide complete support for these honorable young people who stand tall, serving their country?

What do you hope your book A VETERAN'S HOW-TO GUIDE continue to do for veterans and their families?
A.B.: As I stated, this book was born of the frustrations that we experienced when Bill was fighting to obtain his benefits. Bill is highly educated and still had a fight on his hands to get his well earned benefits because of all the hoops that the VA makes the veteran jump through. We realized, after he was awarded his 100% disability rating, that the bulk of the military has just a high school education and is not well equipped to deal with the trauma of war and then coming home and dealing with the trauma of the VA. That alone could raise the soldier's PTSD response to an unacceptable level and could make it very difficult for the soldier to control. Consequently, we wrote the book in a simple, step by step approach to guide the veteran through the maze without becoming frustrated or, at least, to minimize the frustration level. For the vet, it is very comforting to know that they are not alone in the battle they are facing with their own government. Steps are explained, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) are explained so the vets are aware of what happened to them. There is also a chapter written for the spouse who was left behind with the family. For a synopsis of each chapter, you can go to out website, www.chaplainsbowman.com and read about the contents of the book.

I wish I could tell you how many calls Bill has received from vets all around the country thanking him for the book and for his service to them. He has been able to guide so many vets to conclusion in obtaining their benefits and that has been so gratifying for both of us. I do not speak to the vets who call because, quite honestly, I am not the person they need and who can relate to them. Bill has had vets in tears thanking him for the book and how simple he made it for them. That really helps to reduce their level of frustration and helps them to keep their eyes focused on their goal, which is obtaining their benefits. We don't have a foundation and we don't take donations. This is our way of giving back to our veterans who have certainly sacrificed for us.

Singer Antoine Dunn: A Rising Star You 'Can't Forget'


by Cyrus Webb

Recording artist Antoine Dunn finds himself in a unique position of not just living out his dreams but inspiring others along the way. The Cleveland, OH native is someone who is not only confident about his gift but determined to use the attention he is garnering to make a difference each day.

It was in middle school that Antoine started getting serious about music. There he was a member of a choir and saw it as an opportunity to do something more with his gift.

"I first saw writing as an ability to express myself and to wind down," he told me during our phone interview. "It was more an outlet just for me." By high school, though, he began to widen out and express his musical talents with others.

Now his music is being shared with the world, beginning with his first single "Can't Forget." "It's been really fulfilling and eye-opening," he says. "I see myself as being in a position to reach people that I probably wouldn't be able to otherwise. Doing this and being in the public allows you the ability to influence and inspire others."

When I asked him about how he deals with the challenges we all face and those who try to steal our dreams, Antoine said this: One of the ways I stay focused is that I've never really referred to this as a dream. For me the desires of my heart are goals, and going after those goals keeps me motivated."

Some will listen to Antoine's single "Can't Forget" and try and label him as just another R&B singer. That would be a mistake. "For me music transcends genres," he told me "My music incorporates many styles and includes elements from different genres." He says this allow him to reach a larger audience.

As he is performing on stage and sharing his music with audiences both online and in person Antoine told me that he truly believes he is living his purpose. "Their support is confirmation that this is what I was meant to do."


Some artists and individuals that I interview have been hesitate to say they see themselves as role models or take on that responsibility. Antoine Dunn fully embraces it. "Music is so powerful," he says. "People can hear a song and that can be life-changing for them. I love being a role model, because I believe it is part of my responsibility to help point people in the right direction if I can."

One of the main ways Antoine has been able to keep up with his fans and introduce his music has been through social networking sites like Twitter. He uses it to keep in contact those following him and even uploads pictures from his studio sessions and events. For him it helps to build more of a personal relationship with them.

What advice does he give for those looking to break into the industry? "Keep entertaining the possibility," he says. "As long as someone believes it will lead you to where you want to go."

Look for Antoine Dunn's single "Can't Forget" to be available on I-Tunes November 1, 2011. In the meantime watch the video for the song here: http://tinyurl.com/antoinedunnvideo

PROFILE: Author Steven Janke


by Cyrus Webb

Mystery, danger and historic revelations are all wrapped up in one book that I read over the Summer: THE KYKUIT BUNKER. Written by Minnesota author Steven Janke he shared with me first on Conversations LIVE and then in this interview what led him to write the book, how his characters developed and spoke to him and what he hopes you take away from the message. 

Steven, thanks for taking out the time to talk with us. We'll get into your novel THE KYKUIT BUNKER in a moment, but I first want to talk with you about this journey you've been on as a writer. You shared with me on Conversations LIVE that your love affair with words began some time ago. What is it like for you now to have the opportunity for the world to know your name and of your work?

In one word: priceless. To think that just a few months ago I was an aspiring author, looking to get my words published, to today, where I have a book on the market, is a true testament to the advice people hear all the time; "If you put your mind to it, nothing will stop you."

For me, writing my first novel has been the first step I have taken to present myself to the world in terms of mass exposure, but I don't think people need to do anything specific like writing a book to feel fulfillment in their lives. I think everyone should live every day of his or her life to the fullest and to never take a moment for granted. Whether the sense of "time well spent" comes in the form of volunteering, education, entrepreneurship, etc. the fact of the matter is anyone should look back on a day and feel a sense of pride in that the day wasn't wasted. If you do waste a day, and in reflection feel depressed about that, don't let that feeling bog you down. Wake up the next morning and make up for lost time, then keep that momentum driving you further into the brief amount of time you have left to share yourself with the world.

My response to this question, Cyrus, then points to my thankfulness that not only through my book have I met you, but I have also had the opportunity to share my thoughts about life to the world through your chosen medium. With my thoughts, if at least one of your readers wakes up tomorrow and is invigorated to do something different, to change their life, to explore new and life-changing things, to make a positive contribution to the human race; then that would answer your question of what is has been like for me to share my work with the world: priceless.

One thing that is obvious from reading your novel and talking with you is your love of history as well. Do you think you could have written this book the way you did without that component?

History has been a fascination of mine for many years. I say that not just in saying I am interested in anything before the 1960's, for instance, but I say that in meaning I am interested in our past and how that might impact our future. I am greatly interested in where we came from, what has taken place to get us to where we are today, and what we are doing today, which will be considered history tomorrow.

Without an inherent love of history, I doubt I would have ever been in the position to piece together all of the moving parts that make up the novel The Kykuit Bunker. However, the beauty of my book is that my love of history only served to allow me to construct a world in which something may have happened in the past. My sense of the historical facts mentioned in my book is that the facts are familiar with a high percentage of any reader population. As a result, I hope my book not only offers a different perspective on how one could twist historical facts into a fictional novel, but a renewed interest in history beyond the mandatory accumulation of knowledge required in any educational setting.


For our readers that are just being introduced to you tell them about the premise of THE KYKUIT BUNKER and how the story came about.

I actually started out looking to write a script for a television show. My thought was that the characters would look for a treasure, only to find that the clues were derived by a misguided character and actually didn't lead to a treasure, but did lead to lost time. I initially figured it would make for a great episode, but as soon as I got into creating/discovering the clues and the story, the script morphed into more than a script, of which I thought would be better suited for a book setting as opposed to a television setting.

When I started the novel writing process, I wrote an outline that was three pages long. Essentially these pages were filled with clusters of sentences that represented what chapters could occur in the story. The entire story, characters, clues, and conclusion was summarized in just three pages. What came out of the process of writing an outline was a book about John D. Rockefeller's treasure, where three college students pursue a treasure map that was written in the form of real life poems, while being diligently chased by the CIA.

I have heard authors say that though they had an idea for a book that when the characters were birthed into the story they kind of led in their evolution and development, even taking the author on a path they hadn't expected. Did you experience this yourself, and what character surprised you the most?

Absolutely. When I was writing the novel I would take a section of the outline I had dedicated as a chapter and write a whole chapter about whatever the outline said I needed to accomplish in that chapter. I started with the most active piece of the puzzle; the college students. While my book goes back and forth between stories that eventually get woven together before the climatic conclusion, I would write one story for a couple of chapters, then come back to write the others. When the momentum I experienced while writing about the college students and their interactions with the story took off, I couldn't escape that, so I let them go, while neglecting the CIA and the New York Times columnist. However, after a couple of written chapters I would go back to bring the other story lines up to where the college students were in the timeline.

Throughout this process of writing, I discovered that my character, Taylor Bowman, the New York Times columnist, was actually my main character. She is a common thread throughout and serves as balancing point between the other story lines of two varying levels of motivation. I didn't expect Taylor to emerge as my main character because of all of the action the college students get to see. However, once the book comes to a conclusion, the only active way I could come out with a continuation story was through Taylor, netting her the spot of my true main character.

I have to tell you, Steven, that reporter Taylor Bowman had me from beginning to end. I think because we got to know her in her professional setting as well as snippets of her personal life. Do you think those kind of details, the ones that the reader knows and other characters may not, are what people are resonating with when it comes to your book?

I think anyone who reads a book is looking for something to relate to. Whether that is a character or an ideology isn't of the issue. What matters is that without a connection, a book can swiftly become boring and not of interest. I believe my character, Taylor Bowman, is someone that many people can relate to. She is trying to start something, her career, which represents her innate and developed abilities, and she is willing to go the extra mile to achieve success. Without these details, one cannot immediately attach themselves to a character or an idea, so I think these personal details are paramount when writing an interesting story.

The college students that we are introduced to in the book are pretty much our eyes and ears along the journey to find the truth about this supposed treasure. Was there a reason why you chose individuals who are sometimes seen as being disengaged to the world and not as active to be the real heroes of this story?

Mainly I wanted to showcase that anyone can do what these college students end up doing with the clues throughout the story. I think many authors create a situation where an expert in a topic needs to exist in order to solve something. While my story may seem complex, the truth is that if you slow down to consider what is in front of you for more than just a moment, you might discover something that those around you have passed by without a second glance, without the level of expertise that would otherwise be required.

Having some characters be college students achieves exactly that, the perception that one doesn't need to be an expert to solve something. Being college students offers an inescapable determination of age, immaturity, and quite possibly a pre-assigned level of intelligence. If these assigned traits turn out to be low from the reader's perspective, that's fine with me because it would only serve to compound the importance of what the college students eventually discover by calling upon their otherwise common knowledge and use of resources that are readily available to anyone of any age.

The truth is, many people are familiar with what is brought up in my book. As a result, whether you can related to a college student or not, you should be able to follow along very well with how things play out. In the end, I think my use of college students as primary characters points to the notion that while they may be young, they are definitely capable of contributing meaningful thought to society, and need not be written off as disengaged individuals.

Another character in the book that some might not think of as such is money itself: its purpose, its power and its danger. For you as a writer is there something you wanted us the reader to think about as we looked at the way money and wealth were addressed and approached in the story?

Money is a crazy thing and our perception of money is centuries in the making. Boiled down, money is a generally accepted form of payment for products and/or services. Some use wealth and the amount of money one has accumulated as a measure of worth to society. But really, when it comes down to it, money is an avenue one can use to translate what has occurred to get the money elsewhere into a bartering situation. In the end, money is only worth what another is willing to give up in exchange for the money.

My book highlights money in the light that one man thought the future potential of a nation was worth so much, that he was willing to give up a very large portion of his net worth in the name of a goal the nation set forth. Through philanthropy, he knowingly would never benefit from what he would contribute his hard earned dollars toward. I think the lesson here is that we all seem to selfishly strive to stretch a dollar as far as it can go, without recognizing the potential an effort of service can do to a society, provided the effort isn't wasted once contributed. We may never escape the prevalence of money in our day-to-day lives, but if we change our perception that money shouldn't drive our selfish decision-making process or business initiatives, we may find greater opportunities to translate the money accumulated through individual efforts into universal and progressive initiatives.

Steven, you said something curious to me when on the radio talking about this novel and the follow-up. I asked if you had any anxiety about the sophomore project and you said you were ready for us to have it but you wanted to make sure it was the best it could be. Do you think as your career advances you will be seen more as an author concerned about the quality of the work more so than how many books you have out?

All too often we see authors hit a homerun, only to follow that up with a strikeout. I'm not saying with The Kykuit Bunker I have hit a 500 foot homerun, but I am saying that no matter what, I want to avoid striking out in whatever I produce. I don't know if it's the topic of a continuation novel or the pressure to create something that causes authors to go from a homerun to a strikeout, but it's a very common tale. One author that comes to mind wrote incredible, worldwide, movie-adapted books, only to produce a recent book that wasn't enticing at all, and in fact an absolute let down. When I read this particular book, having read the first few in the 'series', I may have came into the book with heightened expectations, but regardless, I didn't even read the last 150 pages because the book was that bad. When reading this particular book I got to a point where I said to myself "That's it? That's all you've got?". This is a reaction from readers that I want to avoid as I look toward writing my second book.

I recognize the amount of time required to read a book, and the last thing I would want for a person is to look back on one of my books as a waste of time. I am aiming for my writing to be captivating, entertaining, and worthwhile. As a result, I am very focused on the quality of the story, how it interacts with any reader, and how I stay true to myself as an author.

Talk to us about the business side of things. How do you make the time to market and promote yourself and still leave time for writing, meeting with fans, etc?

I'm passionate about writing, creating something with my mind, and sharing it with the world. I know that my time on this earth is limited, and I intend not to waste any of it. The decision of allocating time comes in what is appropriate for the amount time that I allocate to any one activity. I know that I still have to work forty hours a week at my job. With that, I still want to write X number of hours per week, promote myself X number of hours per week, and spend X number of hours doing general life-related things.

But that is just it isn't it? We talk about time as if we are spending money. I spent time here. I spent time there. That's the truth. How much time do you have, and what value to you place on it? I think if you did the math, you wouldn't want to waste a minute of time.

When I was in college, I took a sales job that required me to make appointments with people in order to show them my sales presentation. What I learned through calling people is that many people tend to look at a calendar and think if something is written down, they can't do anything else that day. For example, one phone call was with a mother of two, who happened to have two baseball games at different times on a Saturday. Because of these baseball games on her calendar, she told me that meeting with me on Saturday wasn't going to happen. I then asked what the times of the games were. She mentioned that the baseball games were at 9:00 and 11:30; both morning games. From there, I asked if 3:00 in the afternoon would be all right for a meeting. After giving the proposal some thought, she agreed to meet with me in the afternoon. The lesson learned is that without challenging your schedule to do more in a day than you had in mind, it is difficult to allow yourself to be stretched to your maximum potential.

If you really want to do something, and you are truly passionate about it, you can never use 'lack of time' as an excuse because a truly passionate person would always make time to pursue what they want to pursue. That is how I approach my life, and that is what I think anyone can think about. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. Pursue whatever that is to the fullest, and always find time to reach for what makes you happy.

I think we all have individuals we look to for guidance and direction as well as a listening ear or to act as a sounding board for us. Who is that for you?

It's true that human beings always look to others for validation that whatever they are doing is being perceived as not a waste of time. When I found myself looking for such validation, I turned to my friends and family. Just as parents-to-be might gauge the public's response to a chosen name for their unborn child, I did the same in telling others what I had in mind for my story. Through these interactions and subsequent responses/reactions, I was able to craft a story that I felt would appeal to the greatest number of people, while pushing further in delivering a satisfying result meant to leave a reader excited about what may be in store for future books.

Last question for you. Success means different things to different people. How has your view of what success is evolved and how you can use it to affect others?

Thinking back to a few years ago, my sense of accomplishment was making a certain number of dollars per year and being happy with that number. Today, my sense of accomplishment has changed to less of a focus on a dollar figure, to a more focused effort on the tangible contribution I can make to the human race.

The incredible thing about us as human beings and the age we live in is that no matter what your background, no matter who you are as an individual, you still have a voice, a mind, and a purpose in life. If one takes a moment to realize that the time they spend on this earth equates to such a small portion of 'time' in general, I think that person would feel a greater sense of motivation to never waste a moment of the most precious gift that God has ever given anyone that has ever had the rare opportunity to be on this earth.

Thank you again, Steven, for the time. How can our readers get their copy of the book and stay in contact with you?

My book, The Kykuit Bunker, is available on amazon.com and through barnesandnoble.com in both paperback and e-book forms. Also, my book is available in paperback through my Web site www.thekykuitbunker.com.

I may be reached through my "Contact" page at thekykuitbunker.com. I make ever effort to respond to correspondences I receive through my Web site within 24 hours of contact, so that is the best way to get in touch with me directly. I am also very active on shelfari.com and goodreads.com, both of which offer opportunities to interact with me on both professional and personal levels.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Falling In Love With YOU


by Cyrus Webb

Being in love is not an easy thing. I know that from first-hand experience, but that doesn't mean that it's not a great experience when it happens. Who hasn't at some point wanted someone that they could confide in and share something deep with. It's not something that comes around everyday, but when you find it there is really nothing like it.

Some people spend their lives looking for someone they can love and share their lives with, but they sometimes forget or overlook the importance of loving the one individual that should always be considered: themselves. For some reason loving yourself is something that always appears to be more difficult then loving anyone else. I guess because we are the hardest on ourselves and believe that somehow we are not worth loving.

This feeling can come from a bad relationship or just a bad experience that we had. I have found that some who have been abused or neglected in some way find it almost impossible to forgive themselves for the abuse and even more difficult to love themselves afterwards. There have been times in my own life that I have felt unworthy of love and even afraid of it. This led me to a period of depression that took me some time to overcome.

What helped me to get back on track, though, was the realization that love began with something greater than me. It began with God. He is love, and because of His love for mankind he gave up his son so that we could enjoy a better life. For individuals of faith this shows the ultimate act of selflessness and should be all the evidence we need to know that He wants us to feel for ourselves what he feels for us.

Oprah Winfrey said it this way: "Because you are here---because you made it---you are worthy." Worthy of not just a healthy relationship with others but more importantly one with yourself. Greatness created you, and because of that no matter what is done to you no one can destroy that greatness as long as you nurture it.

Maybe you have never felt worthy of the great things that are meant for you. If that is the case make today your starting point for a change. Tell yourself that you are worthy of love and that you love the person that God created you to be.

When you are able to tell yourself that and really believe it, you will be surprised at the amount of love and blessings that will begin to flow your way. All because you realize what has been the truth all along: You are worthy.

ACTING ON FAITH: Ryan Kolbe


by Cyrus Webb

With the September issue of Conversations Magazine we are beginning a new segment that we are calling "Acting On Faith". Through it we are looking to feature individuals who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and pursuse their careers in the entertainment world as an actor, actress or behind the camera.

Why did they do it? Where did the belief come from that told them they could make it in spite of the challenges? Most importantly, what can we all learn from them as we pursue our own paths? Those are the questions I hope we will be able to answer.

Our first profile is of Ryan Kolbe. He is an individual who was able to realize that he was more than just the world around him and set up to learn not only about the craft of acting but himself as well. It is a journey that has led him to new people, a new adventure and a new appreciation for the power of a dream.

Thank you for helping us to showcase talented individuals like yourself, Ryan. How do you stay inspired as you pursue your goals in the entertainment industry?
There is a quote that has been attributed to Harrison Ford where he said, “I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn't give up you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you.” That quote is always in my head, quietly reminding me that as long as I work hard and don’t give up, I’m going to achieve my goal, which is to be successful.

Success can mean a million different things, though. For example, I left a 9 to 5 job where I worked with wonderful people to pursue a career in acting on the other side of the continent. I moved out here in December after selling most everything in my house and stuffing everything left over in a UHaul and driving here from Cincinnati to a new apartment that I had only seen a couple pictures of. Successful move = success. I wanted to join the Groundlings and within the first couple of months of being out here, I completed the first two levels, and am now on the waiting list for the third. Huge success! I’ve been an extra in an NBC pilot, a Disney show, a show on the CW, and a webseries for the music group Garfunkel & Oates. Success again. Along with all of that, I started volunteering at the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, which cooks a hot meal every day of the year for the homeless. More success.

I know that my goals are different than everyone else’s, so a big part of me staying inspired is to not compare myself to other people. I know that maintaining a positive attitude, and realizing that nothing happens overnight will both help to keep me grounded. In turn, it’ll only be a matter of time until my goals are achieved.

What advice would you have for others who are interested in following their dreams as well?
A director friend of mine told me some advice that someone told him as he was making the choice to move to LA, and that is that if there’s ANYTHING else you can picture yourself doing, DO THAT. After all, what’s the use of blindly following the herd when you’re not really into it? In my opinion, you only live once, and at the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I did everything I wanted to do, when and how I wanted to do it – and right now, that’s acting.

I would also say that it’s totally your decision. If all you can think about is moving to LA to become an actor, do it! Get it into your head that it’s going to be a tough road, and there are going to be times where you wonder what you did, or if you made the right decision, but the payoff is amazing. With that said, also be open to the fact that the dreams that you’re following today could be different five years from now, and that’s okay too! Nobody is saying you’re only allowed to follow one dream in your lifetime.

Can you tell us what is next for you?
The first 7 months of being out here have already been a cliché-sized “dream come true.” Suffice it to say - I’ve been very fortunate to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself thus far, so in thinking about what is next for me in the following 3 to 6 months, I’m going to: find a theatrical agent who I really jive with who can help me grow my career, audition for and get a role in a production at a notable theater, continue to take the fantastic classes I’ve been taking since February at Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop, and just meet as many new friends as possible.


Thanks again for taking out the time to talk with us. How can our readers find out more information about you online?

I have a website, ryankolbe.com, where you can see my headshots, reel, and a slew of other random things. If you’d like to read my mindless chatter in 140 characters or less, you can follow me on Twitter @ryankolbe. If you’re more of the business mindset, you can see some of the “9 to 5” Ryan at linkedin.com/in/ryankolbe. Oh, and the social behemoth Facebook at facebook.com/ryankolbe.

President Barack Obama: More Effective Campaigner Than Commander?


by Cyrus Webb

Over the almost ten years that I have been leading conversations on the radio, television or in print no topic has been off limits. I have always wanted the Conversations brand to represent an open environment where individuals of all walks of life felt comfortable expressing themselves and their beliefs. The only barrier that I have set, however, is how much of myself I include in the work I do. No matter what I am discussing, I try not to inject my personal feelings into the conversation. That way it's not about me, it's about what others are saying to me and through me.

For me the most emotionally charged issue I have presented over the years is Politics. Regardless of how you vote or what your views might be, I try to just present the topic and let my audience decide for themselves what they agree with or not.

When it came to the Presidential campaign of 2010 and the subsequent election of President Barack Obama I covered it on the radio as I would any other topic. I assembled views from the left, right and center of the political spectrum to discuss how they thought the President was doing and what they hoped he would do moving forward.

Beginning with this issue we will be discussing the President and the lead up to the 2012 election. As we have gotten int he past I wanted your feedback on this new feature. Our first question that was posed to readers online deals with the President's current priority. He swept into office on a well-run campaign that seemed to enthrall much of the company. Almost three years into his administration is he showing that he can lead just as well as he can campaign? Is he more concerned about campaigning for the next election or being an effective commander?

Here is some of what you all had to say...


"I voted for Obama. After 8 years of Bush he was a beacon in the night. Three years later we have no change and no leadership but only a weak, literate, academic, and non-effectual president. He has spent so much time working for bi-partisanship. Three months into his administration the right let him know clearly they would not be working with him on his quest. Still he persisted. Still they insisted. We have come to a standstill with the right caring little about the welfare of Americans or the country as long as they keep the bad economic situation going in order to create a one-term presidency. Obama has not offered any change. Quantanamo still exists. He refuses to go after the former administration for anything they did. We are no better and possibly worse off now. If there was a choice i would get on the bandwagon and demand the democrats get behind Hillary and demand she come in and become the candidate." Leonard Peters

"President Obama reminds me of a freshman Congressman who starts campaigning for re-election the day they are elected to office... Is the President running for office instead of being a leader in a time of need? You bet he is."
Tilmon Brown

"In 2008 our country was at the brink of another Great Depression and our leaders had alienated much of the international community. This administration saved the banking and auto industries from collapse. The President was also honored with a Nobel Peace Prize which is just one reflection of a much better image of the United States abroad. For example, candidate Obama promised historic health care reform which, after more than 50 years of debate, President Obama signed into law. Candidate Obama promised to draw down combat troops in Iraq which this administration has accomplished. Candidate Obama promised to re- focus on those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. After 10 long years, this administration finally located and killed Osama Bin Laden. Candidate Obama promised more diversity in our judicial system. President Obama appointed the 1st Hispanic to the Supreme Court and has diversified the federal bench in spite of the delays on confirmation hearings for his appointees. Has he or his administration been perfect? No. However, do we seem to keep moving the goal posts on what we can expect from this or any other President of the United States? Sadly, yes. It took our country more than 30 years to dig into the ditch where we now find ourselves. It will take a lot longer than 3 years to climb out, but we are indeed slowly climbing and our President deserves much more credit than he gets for leading us up from total economic collapse." John W. Cavanaugh, Ph.D.

"I think too many of our politicians focus too much on re-election. Regrettably, the President appears no different however he's taking some positions that likely hurt his base. I want the President to succeed, but concerned hes avoiding the tough decisions for political reasons... And I don't think the Republicans are much better." John Boyd

"I voted for Obama, and I knew he was a centrist Democrat when I did it, so my expectations were not high. I expected him to be better than McCain would have been, and I believe he is. I will vote for him again. I do believe that just by being African-American and President (and living to tell the tale, at least so far) he gives hope to minority kids. I had hoped for better on the administrative side, where he didn't have to buck Congress, for instance in environmental regulations concerning endangered species, mining, and such. I am disappointed that he has not got us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, but pursuing expensive, hopeless wars seems to be the one thing Democrats and Republicans always agree on. Still, I believe he could lead the country into putting more of the budget into education and infrastructure and less into war. This would create more jobs than the same amount going to weapons manufacture. I want him to do more about sustainability than he has so far, though stricter efficiency standards for trucks is hopeful. The main thing I want him to do right now for sustainability is to stop the Canadian oil tar sands pipeline from going through the United States, which I understand he can do without Congress." Nancy Schimmel

"There's no question in my mind President Obama is in campaign mode. I was astonished by his national address before the debt ceiling vote. It's unusual that those speeches, when the networks provide free air time, are so overtly partisan. Apart from attacking the Tea Party, which isn't a party, he played the same old class warfare card. As it turns out, the Congress ignored his insistence on new taxes, both Democrats and Republicans." Mark Grimm

"As a college student, I'm even more alarmed by the President's economic policy than my calculus exams. His soaring campaign rhetoric whipped my generation into a euphoric frenzy; but reckless spending and big-government programs have sent us crashing into fiscal insolvency. In response to these challenges, our President campaigns harder. The administration's tone ebbs and flows with focus group messages. His economic policies are infused with themes of class warfare and motivated by populist gimmicks. If his 2012 campaign so desperately wants to keep its stronghold on voters my age, he must stop campaigning and start governing. He should reject the Keynesian hocus pocus that we can tax and spend our way to prosperity; and instead protect the opportunity we have in a free market." Will Simpson

"I voted for Obama, although I had strong reservations after reading his book. I felt that he was too eager to please everyone, so would not necessarily be true to his ideals. And he's proven me right, I'm sad to say. I'm also disheartened by his continued use of Executive Order to keep his policies/decisions out of the public eye. We have a right t know what's being done in our name, but we're being kept in the dark. I think that's a dangerous precedent for any government - whether Neo-Con, Liberal or Tea Party." Phyllis Harber-Murphy


"I voted for Obama-—not much to choose from-—although I honestly thought Hilary was the better candidate. Three years later, I am more convinced than ever that Hilary would have made a better President. While it is true that Obama inherited an absolute wreck of an economy and a disaster in Central Asia, but I have been very disappointed in his responses and responsiveness... He showed an utter lack of leadership on this debt/deficit issue. He should have hammered his own people, and put the screws to the Republicans. He should have been in the media—all forms—calling out the right wing who just wants to bring down his administration at whatever cost. He should have been pressing his own bill—I know, he tried, but very weakly. He’s a very bright man; there’s no doubt about that. And he was decisive enough in getting Osama Bin Laden. But he couldn’t even leverage that success for more than a few days. I know we’ll hear more about it next year, but it’s not enough. He was unsuccessful at leveraging his 2-house majority in Congress in the first 2 years, and even less successful at leveraging his majority in the Senate. If he can’t manage THAT, what CAN he manage? It’s very troubling to me, especially because I have NEVER voted for a Republican in my life! And it’s looking like the eventual Republican nominee next year could be a right-wing crazy like Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann. What an insult they both are to the Presidency. Our primary system needs to overhauled. As it stands now, the left wing of the Dems choose their nominee, while the right wing of the Reps choose theirs. That leaves the rest of us to choose between a rock and a hard place. And I won’t NOT vote because that is a vote for the lesser of the two evils." Ann Middleman

"I am not disappointed by Obama. I am disappointed by the Republican party to which I belonged pre-Bush. The party whose policies took a nation from low unemployment and a financial surplus to a crisis. Obama had a dream for this country and attempted to achieve it.He withstood constant badgering about his birth certificate and kept his attention on foreign and domestic affairs rather than the petty hatreds of the opposition. He has kept his promise to withdraw troops from wars we should never have gotten into. He has changed don't ask don't tell, He has created a new health plan. He has attempted to save the country from depression with various acts, some of which have paid off, some of which failed. He saved American auto industry. He prevented a depression. He has worked for the greening of America. Obama is called weak - because he has tried to do what he said he would do - have unified government. He has tried to compromise. They in turn dug in their heels on a double agenda - not adequately tax the rich and get Obama out of office. He has not gone back on his promises - he has just been too much the gentleman and idealist to realize that you cannot reason with an inflexible mind set. He had hopes and dreams for this country and persists in them, despite the negative agenda of his opponents. It took ten years and a world war to get us out of the great depression, which I lived through. Why did everyone expect Obama to get us out of a deep recession in less than one term of office with such virulent hatred against him and his entire liberal agenda?" Francine L. Trevens


What are your thoughts? Feel free to share them online with this article or write me at cawebb4@juno.com. Your responses could end up as part of our series.

PROFILE: Sam E. Bromley, author


Sam, can you tell us when you first realized that writing was something you want to do?
While sitting in the desert of Iraq, after the death of a friend, I became very homesick and wanted to return home to be with Family. I had been reading Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life and read the part about isolating the events of your past that you enjoyed doing the most. I began reminiscing about the times I told my two sons stories before bedtime and my Special Education student's favorite time of Story Telling. It was then I realized I loved to tell stories and cried out to God in prayer.



When did the idea for HUNKA CHUNKA MONKEY SHAPES UP first come about?
That night, with pen and paper, God gave me 'something out of nothing' and I wrote Hunka Chunka Monkey Shapes Up in the next hour and a half. That evening, while reminiscing about story telling to my two sons I remembered the nickname I gave my youngest son when he was two years old: One night I called him a silly little monkey and he thought I was calling him a name, so he became angry and called me a donkey. Over a period of time, many evenings of story telling, the nicknames of monkey became Hunka Chunka Monkey and the donkey became Runka Dunka Donkey.

The book is entertaining but has a powerful message about exercise, friendship and healthy lifestyle changes. Did you know from the very beginning that you want to address all of these?
These two characters were just nicknames until that hot evening in the desert in Al Asad Air Force Base in July 2009. I truly believe all inspiration comes from God and that evening, the words flowed onto the paper.

What has it been like for you to market and promote the book?
It has been a very long process. I could only communicate through e-mails while in Iraq. I spent months inquiring and researching to get my story published. I got all kinds of advice but never any clear direction. 'Join a website......learn to blog......get your story out there and maybe someone might help you....etc....etc! Finally in May 2010 I decided to self-publish. I found my Illustrator Kid Cardona through the internet and to this day, we have never met or spoken. All my illustrations were done over a five month period with our only communication being the internet. I would describe a scene to him in an e-mail and he would return a sketch days later for my approval. This seemed to go on forever. Kid is currently in China working for three animation studios. He is the Official Caricature Artist of Texas. Imagine, if you will, I am in the middle of the desert of Iraq communicating with my Illustrator in China and trying to get self-published with Mill City Press in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It took, what seemed, forever to accomplish!

Is there a message that you hope readers will most take away from Hunka Chunka?
The central theme children 'will' take away from Hunka Chunka Monkey Shapes Up is to 'cut back on their favorite snack, become active and make new friends'. This message is done in a very entertaining way without being preachy. What is unique about my story is, children will not only learn this valuable lesson about cutting back on their favorite snack, but they will learn...in their very souls....a FOUNDATION about moderation in all they do. CUTTING BACK ON WHATEVER IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU.....BECOMING ACTIVE IN WHAT IS IMPORTANT....AND ESTABLISHING RELATIONSHIPS....whether it be with new Friends or with God Himself!

Sam, what's next for you?
I have 23 more stories ahead of me. Bully The Badger is my next book and it deals with the second most important issue the children of America face....Bullying! Each story will be about a very basic 'Life Skill' children must possess to cope in the world around them. There will be Lofty Lucky the Giraffe who is heads above the rest and he knows it. Lofty is dealing with arrogance. Then there is Chatty Gatty the Gator who cannot keep her mouth closed and if you get too close, her words bite. Chatty has a problem with gossiping! And many, many more fun loving animals, each with their own unique character flaw that Hunka Chunka and Runka Dunka will assist them in overcoming!

Any advice you have for aspiring writers?
Never give up! If you can be inspired to write a story, then you MUST follow through with getting it out to be read by others. If not, what good was the INSPIRATION to write it in the first place?

Thank you for your time. How can our readers stay in contact with you?
You can check out my Hunka Chunka Monkey Shapes Up website at: www.hunkamonkey.com. Or go to a Barnes & Noble and demand it. Sincere Thanks to you Cyrus Webb for this opportunity to share my story with others.

PROFILE: Ed Wiseman, Producer/Director of Reading Rainbow


by Cyrus Webb

(Wiseman seen here with his wife Orly who he met while working on Reading Rainbow)

Before Oprah revolutionalized the world through her book club there was Reading Rainbow. In 1981 Ed Wiseman began working on the original pilot of the PBS show as an intern. By the time the show began the production of its last year he was the director and producer of the popular show that introduced the world of books to young people all around the world.

Now two years after Reading Rainbow called it quits, the Emmy award-winner talks frankly with me about his time with the show, how he benefited from it personally as well as what he believes the legacy will be.


Ed, thanks for taking out the time to discuss Reading Rainbow with us. What was the goal you believe those associated with the show set out to achieve and in your mind did you do so?
The goal was to motivate and enthuse children to read.  Originally it was targeted towards primary readers (grades 1-3) during the summer months.  The theory was that students would maintain the skills they learned during the school year if they read over the summer.  Then re-teaching would be less necessary in September. Well the show became so popular at the time that it went year round.  By looking at the numbers of books that publishers sent to
libraries, schools and bookstores (and ended up in children's hands) you can tell it was an outrageous success.  We learned by the stats that every book we even mentioned on the show would at least double its sales. Some increased 3,000 percent.  We also received very high scores in studies on attention span - near 100%.

Many people talk about the impact that Oprah Winfrey made when it came to getting adults reading through her book club, yet Reading Rainbow was able to do that long before through its featured titles. Do you think it has gotten the credit it deserves for changing the way that young people read and discussed books? 
Well, like Oprah we did not teach traditionally or instruct through TV - we chose to fascinate. We motivated and excited kids to read.  We also treated children as if they were smart - we did not dumb down quality.  Although it was not as popular as the other children¹s series that used fantasy as a calling card we became, in my opinion, the most warmly loved because we offered
sincerity, honesty and care to our viewers.  There was a statistic that was often used in the production office that showed that Reaing Rainbow was the most adult-watched kids show ever produced - especially adults with no children.  TV can be smart and entertaining! The only credit we looked
for was the glow on the faces of those who were transformed by the show. We know Reading Rainbow lives on in the hearts of grownups who were once children moved by the series.  Those folks know.  That means the world.  The series won over 200 awards.  I personally won 8 Emmy Awards. But nothing compares to the transformation of one child.  And I mean that!

As a fan of the show Reading Rainbow inspired me to pursue my goals and dreams, thinking anything is possible. I know you have heard that alot from others as well. What did being a part of Reading Rainbow do for you personally?
I met my wife on Reading Rainbow and now have three wonderful children! I grew up professionally on the show and worked with people who cared about making great TV.  We used more of a feature film model.  Each episode was like its own film.  We made it not for ourselves but for the 6-8 year old watching - and their parent standing behind them.  We sifted through material, rejecting so much, to discover the best stories to tell.  We had an amazing host who could reach kids with anything worthwhile and true.  Our job was to get it on the screen. 

That experience of over 20 years, working with the best people making the best show on TV for a wonderful audience transformed me!  I learned forever skills. Many of the regular freelancers who worked on the series, who also worked on many other shows and films, remember very, very fondly their time with the show.  They feel the same as viewers like you do!  They loved it.  So did I.  It was a once-in-a-career labor of love.

I always look at projects I have been a part of and wondered what would have been if I had approached it differently. Any thoughts now two years after the show ended on what you would have liked to do with its direction?
I would have loved the show to move much further in the direction it was just beginning to move in.  We started to tackle more sophisticated subjects because kids were becoming more savvy and experienced at an earlier age.  So we dealt with death, prison, birth, divorce, etc.  And we did not make it rosy.  We made it safe to watch but real and sincere.  In fact the birth show - which won an Emmy - was the first children¹s program to actually show a baby entering the world from the mom¹s tummy into a doctor¹s hands.  It was filmed in real time in the
birthing room in one shot.  It was filmed carefully and judiciously.  We choreographed it with the doctor and mom - just like a movie!  When it was finished I think the network folks were nervous that the Bible belt would ban the episode.  But, of course, they didn¹t.  In fact I think the only station that raised an objection was the one in NY!  It's quite possible that the episode still hasn¹t played in NY till this day.  We really worked hard to present topics that most thought impossible to portray to kids.  But we always produced it in a way that would help kids
not harm them. 

By the way with that episode I believe we reached many kids on the cusp of teen pregnancy and, without preaching a word, nudged them to read about what it means to bring life into the world.  As a society we sometimes convince ourselves that reading needs to be encouraged only at the youngest age when so many 11 and 12 year olds still fear it. So I
would have like to have seen a whole young adult offshoot of the show.

Many of the pre-teen shows today try to tackle topics like this but end up with over-the-top comedic characters that aren¹t like anything found in the real world.  The other extreme is adult reality shows that portray teens and pre-teens in a hyper reality compressed form.  Again not really sincere and honest.  The hard part is to get folks in the networks to believe that a show doesn¹t have to sell action figures, dolls, online worlds or concert tickets to be of value.

Just thought of an inside story.  I remember walking into the Emmy awards each year and the producers and directors of the other shows would look over at us and give us the hairy eyeball.  I finally asked another colleague what was going on. He said that they were afraid of what you
came up with this year because they don¹t know how you did it and how they will win an Emmy in the same category.  Even though we didn¹t always win that meant a lot because our very talented peers respected us.  It also meant the kids who watch us were really getting the best.

If you had to sum up what the mission statement for Reading Rainbow is for you and what you hope it is thought of for others, what would it be?
I hope Reading Rainbow transformed every child viewer into a lover of reading.  Books should never be strangers.  They should be your best friends.

MURDER, SUICIDE OR NATURAL CAUSES? The Death of Today's Music & Book Stores


by Cyrus Webb

For me there are very few pleasures that can match what I feel when I'm reading a book. Whether its fiction or nonfiction the world I enter through the pages can make you laugh, reflect or even think about things a little differently. IF I am reading about someone's life or experiences I find myself trying to find something I can either relate to or a teachable moment that I can learn from and share.

It is my love of reading and books that sparked the idea of this publication you are now reading. Many of you share my love for having a print edition to enjoy, however, technology has changed the way we not only read books but also listen to an buy music. The result has been less of a need for a brick and mortar store which has led to closings all across the country.

There will be some who will say that the economy as well as the price of merchandise in stores is just as responsible for the closings we see taking placed. Others will say that what we see happening is just the evolution that comes with the changes in the world.

What do you think? Is the demise a sign of the times or self-inflicted? Here are some of the thoughts we received online for this very complicated question.



"I am of the NYC area based, online vinyl record shop, StarryNightRecords.com. The obvious reason for traditional book and music selling stores folding is the advent of all aspects of online media: online shops, online delivery systems, digital readers and audio devices. Many people, especially younger people (who were the traditional demographic of music retailers) are choosing to live lives with less stuff. It is often also just plain easier, less time consuming, and direct to order what you see/want online and have it delivered!

"That said, the key to staying in business as a physical store, or really any business, is niche marketing. One must specialize. In NYC, the record stores that are still open focus on specific genres of music - and people come by for that specialized and unique experience and the knowledge that is there.

"In addition, a brick and mortar store, even if they have an online component, has to provide a reason/experience that can only be had in the physical realm. I once heard this statement in relationship to the concert and movie theater business which is true here also, and that is: there is an innate need for people to physically congregate and have shared group experiences, and they will always do that to some degree. So in the case of a book or record store, group experiences like concerts, readings, book signings, interviews, cafes, and even laundromats are things that can bring people in the door.

"I think that cost of the actual item has absolutely nothing to do with whether people buy online or in a physical store. I think convenience and efficiency of the shopping experience are the major factors. Books and recorded music are often easier to purchase online, especially if you know what you want already - after all, one Stephen King novel or Lady Gaga Cd will be identical to the next.

"I think that it is great that digital formats have arrived and are affordable. It increases access to the artifacts of culture - any method that gets people thinking, reading, listening and engaged with creativity is fabulous and we are a better, more intelligent, and more empathetic and connected world for it. I also believe that the more ways your brand, project, band, book, or whatever is experienced, the more customers you bring in that will buy from you directly, recommend you to others, and come to your events." Bonnie Kane


***

"I'm aging myself here but back in the day, I remember a group of us chipping in money, one of us taking a bus downtown and buying the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. During the years afterwards going to music stores, often either funky shops or mall-based operations was where we got our tunes. We transitioned away from LP's, to cassettes to CD's played on a home sound system.

"As for books, my wife is a reading machine. She now uses a machine to read books. Today ALL our music comes viaiTunes. The only books we buy are for our grandkids, who thankfully love to read. But both are as comfortable, if not more than we are, with iPads. My wife reads most of her books on the iPad, which she either buys or can download from the library.

"One thing I've noticed is when I come to bed a while after my wife curls up with a good iPad, is the bedroom light has been replaced with the glow of the screen she's reading her book on. (Makes for a few stubbed toes but I'll adapt.)
Two of my most favorite magazines, Businessweek and Sports Illustrated are available in iPad editions. While I enjoy still reading the actual magazine, it's far easier to find content using the electronic editions.

"It's easy to blame technology for the demise of music and book stores, but ultimately it's consumers -- who happen to use the technology. It's akin to people blaming Wal-Mart for the demise of local mom and pop stores. Consumers are responsible, not Wal-Mart.

"Among some treasured possession are actual books autographed by everyone from Walter Cronkite to Clive Cussler to Stephen King. I'm not sure what the future version of a "book signing" will be, possible an app that allows an electronic signature on the electronic version of the book.

"The good news is, we still listen to music and read books. So musicians and writers still have a job. We're just listening to or reading their artistry in a far different way. Home libraries are now contained on iPad or e-readers. Music libraries, with days and days worth of music, all contained on the same device we make telephone calls on. Best part is, it sure cuts down on dusting shelves and shelves that used to hold their analog predecessors!"
Brian Olson (Highlands Ranch, CO)

***
"I personally think that book and music stores are folding because of 2 factors: technology and the "instant gratification" factor. People want things NOW and buying them online give them that satisfaction. Technology (creation of ipod and mp3 players) make it much easier to have all your music in one place...no one wants to walk around with CD's anymore. But when purchased online, music and books are more expensive than if purchased at a store... example, I just bought my first iBook recently and it cost me $12.99, but if I had gone to Barnes and Noble (a 10 minute drive from my house) to purchase a hard copy it would have cost me $9.99." alasiciliana


***
"Digital download puts products in the hands of the consumers instantly. We are a world made of people who want everything yesterday. Just an example, a person who is overweight wants to lose all the weight in ten days or less so that they can look good for their high school reunion. It's a quick-fix world and digital download is the greatest solution.

"It won't go away. So, whether it's good or bad is irrelevant. I personally think that from my angle, it's a good thing. I want readers and I know the nature of the consumer. If I can get a book in their hands instantly, my ability to sell my book has just increased ten-fold.

"But, bookstores and music stores are suffering. A person can have a million songs in the space of a DVD player. But, that would be impossible if each of those songs were bought from the store.

"How do we save the music and bookstores? There will always be people who will want the actual thing in their hand. They like collecting. Readers will always want pages they can feel and smell. That brings up other issues like buying books and CDs online so they can be shipped to the house.

"So, book and music stores have to offer something special. They can't just be libraries with price tags. They have to have live entertainment, refreshments, other items to sell like coffee mugs, shirts, hats, posters...etc. An author doing a reading of a chapter or a band playing a few songs, live viewings of movies based on books, live viewings of concerts on a closed circuit television...a million and one ways exist. There will always be plenty of ways to get consumers to come to a store. It's up to the store to bank on it." Michael Allen

***

"I currently live in North Bend, a small town in Oregon, where we have 1 bookstore (really a book swapping store that has a few new books) that is located across the street from the public library. The public library is part of a county-wide system that includes libraries in the public schools, so interlibrary loan is common within the system. The libraries have a reasonable selection of CDs and DVDs/videos that they have purchased or received as donations. There is another bookstore about 30 miles away in an even smaller community that is tourism-based. This area is not wealthy and has a high unemployment rate. The educational achievement level is not high; I expect the community college staff (which has been deeply cut this year) are outnumbered by at least 3:1 by high school dropouts. It is not an area marked by educational excellence.

"Because people have specific interests and the local libraries and bookstores cater to the general audience, on-line purchasing will win here. Personally, I stopped buying recreational reading books over 25 years ago, because I could not afford them on a teacher’s salary and, later, on a student budget (other than required textbooks which cost between $50 and $150 each). I have relied completely on libraries which are free and expose me to a wider range of authors than I would normally choose to buy.

"Stores can only exist by providing products that people will buy. This means that entertainment for general audience appeal will win over thought-provoking or controversial books. Publishers have seen the trend for years and only publish what they know will sell well. Publishers’ choices will both reflect and drive what is available in stores or online. Now that I have DSL available, I am off dial-up for the first time. Will I download books? No. I like the comfort of the paper page and find reading on a screen more difficult. I enjoy books on tape/CD when making long trips because that way I don’t have to deal with pathetic radio reception in mountains or across great distances of unpopulated areas.

"Good or bad? That is a value that has to go beyond the obvious. Is it “bad” to have digital rather than chopping down and processing trees? I live in logging territory and the “farms” are those of trees rather than foodstuffs. Those trees provide income so people can live outside urban areas where their skills are not marketable. Digital may be cheaper in the long run and an efficient way to market the less appealing and/or more controversial books that publishers and/or bookstores would not look at." Jennifer Little

***
"I am an independent musician, run my own label, produce my own records on Cakewalk & in addition run a freelance advertising agency specializing in Internet & mobile video I have a very strong opinion on these money matters, especially with regards music & bookstores in the USA today. I write from the POV of an immigrant Californian. I was born in New Zealand & spent much of my youth in the United Kingdom & Australia. Now I'm a duel Citizen (Yankee/Kiwi). As a nation we need to think different. Rethink possible strategies that can help the retail industry as a whole. Let's fess up, retailers create jobs in all states, jobs are well needed right now.

"'Buy Local' should be the slogan chanted across this great nation. Certain
retail segments such as florists & restaurants necessitate a local retailer by their
nature, others like bookstores & music stores do not. A concentrated effort by all state, city, & county government to buy local should be the ticket to ride. Even as is the case with big box retailers like Target Stores, K-mart etc, a limited selection of best selling books & albums is fine. Let the Barnes & Noble & FYE (For Your Entertainment) specialize in a wide selection of specialty products. Also more work & lobbying by the Small Business Administration & US chamber of commerce needs to be done to protect small business. Only e-tailers who support the collection of sales tax should be welcome.

"If we allow the current trend to continue, only a few anti-tax, anti-union, anti-benefit states will monopolize the bookseller & music retail trade. No doubt, they'll also be outsourcing at creating jobs overseas, not at home. That's (to borrow a movie title as a phrase) "The high cost of low price". Look, I'm not a commie or anti-technology. I like the Nook & my iPod. I like to make money, I'm a family guy. I download from iTunes in addition to visiting the mom & pops
(my favorite vinyl store is Burger Records in Fullerton) I come from a small business family background so I appreciate consumers support the underdog.

"We have to start here, & now. A new & improved effort to educate minds, steer consumers into local retail store because the benefit to society outweighs the cutthroats tactics of a few rogue & immoral companies. In regards to the digital age, let's keep the Webb presses rolling round the clock & the black ink barrels full. Newspapers, magazine titles, books, L.P album jackets; all on paper & ink. They are the bread & butter where Internet is the gravy. Let's make "buy local" the magnet for consumers now. Otherwise, the big take over by corporate giants could filter down, spin out, & it'll be too late. We'll all have no control." Glen Naughty

***
"Books stores like music stores first lost ground with the warehouse type stores. Then came the big box stores WalMart, Sams, Costco. Then came the internet with the Amazons, MP3's and now digital books. What can the remaining bookstores and musicstores do that online stores can not. They can have the authors and musicians at their locations. Be more involved with the end product. Promote local artist. Go to the people (festivals, flea markets, farmers markets). I see some bookstores have readings or signings but they don't promote the events enough." Paula Tromp


***
"Over the past few years we have seen an increasing number of bookstores and music stores fold unexpectedly. The recent closing of the BORDERS bookstores immediately comes to my mind. One of the main reasons why this is happening, is because of the emergence and growth of the technological age. There are always going to be a plethora of faithful, traditional customers who adamantly prefer to buy corporeal books and music. However, as technology continues to advance, more online formats are being used and sold instead of the tangible merchandise.

"As an Author who utilizes online formats, with the internet being a major component in assisting Entrepreneurs in marketing their products, many people are leaning towards using online books and music. They do this not only get their products out to the masses but also because it is faster and more convenient for people to become aware of and more to purchase. Let's face it, we live in a microwave society where customers prefers to get things easier and faster and viral promotions plays right into this societal characteristic . With digital formats like the Kindle for books and iTunes for music, in the future we may see an increasing number of bookstores and music stores closing.

"In my humble opinion, I do not think that this continual wave of stores going out of business that is coming can be prevented because it would be expecting people to move backwards instead of forward. I do not think that online users are going to be willing to trade in lack of publicity and convenience for potential customers to assist in saving bookstores and music stores. The only chance that these physical stores may have to compete is to price their products at such an irresistible rate that people can not help but to make their way to the stores to buy their merchandise. However, even this approach would bring about the issue of stores losing money in order to compete and survive but then this still brings us back to our initial problem. The physical stores would have to bring in a good amount of revenue to continue to stay open as well. Ultimately, It is going to be interesting to see how it all pans out in the end but I think that the digital age is here to stay." Kevin Benton


***
"As the author of 3 books, and several more in the pipeline, I am devastated at the demise of bookstores because of what it means, personally and for society. This is another warning sign of the decline of intellectual civilization. The coal miner's canary has stopped singing and is moribund.

"It's quite a different experience to order books online instead of browsing in bookstores, touching real books, making fabulous finds, and chatting with other book lovers.

"Why are more people sacrificing this experience? Because we:
-Feel as though we have less time for such pleasures
-Cocoon more in our homes because of fear of the outside world
-Become more wary of what we spend our money on
-Parent without teaching our children that bookstore browsing is as
vital as eating
-Have become obsessed with everything technological and think that
it's cooler to read online, or at least to order online.

"What can bookstores do about it?
-Create a more inviting and comfortable atmosphere - with couches and
coffee
-Hold more frequent social events - such as singles events where
authors do book readings and signings of self-help relationship books,
or playdates where authors do book readings and signings of children's
books
-Be more visible in their locales - such as participating in community
events with booths of books and authors, bringing authors with their
books into schools, and so on.

"We must act now to save the bookstores before the canary sings its
last note!" Carole Lieberman M.D., Media Psychiatrist and Bestselling Author


***
"As a student in 2007 I found textbooks to be extremely expensive. I started to buy them on Amazon.com and it made more financial sense. That got me started buying more books online and now I don't even consider the bookstore. If someone is talking about a particular book that appeals to me I go right to Amazon to purchase it. I've even started reselling my 'used' books on Amazon.

"As far as music goes I got started downloading songs when I got my first smart phone years ago. I can take those songs, sync to my computer and make my own customized CD - why go and buy at the store (and get songs I don't really care for along with the ones I really want) when I can customize for my listening tastes.

"So I am probably part of the reason that Book / Music stores have declined and I know I'm not the only one. Technology has made these activities easier, faster, less expensive, and customized. Who could ask for anything more?

"By the way - my mother, an avid book reader, recently got a kindle and I don't see her going back to a bookstore in the future, she loves it!" Teajai Stradley


***

"The internet has pretty much killed bookstores and music stores. Why pay for something you can get for free or much cheaper online? Books are replaced by Kindle, Nooks, and other tablets that allow you to carry thousands of books in your pocket. It was bound to happen!" Sebastien Elkouby


***
"The first thing responsible is the availability of digital format. Up until June
2011, I was a staunch elitist about reading not reading digital books. I could not even fathom reading a digital book. I always loved the cozy feeling of holding a book while dozing off to sleep or reading it at the beach. After buying the IPad 2 in June of this year, I have made a turn a round. With iBooks, audiobooks, etc, I have so much available to me far more than I could imagine. As a busy mom with s 13 year old football player and a busy 11 year old girl who takes three dance classes, my iPod keeps me very entertained with the music and books as it all contains my books ad music without me carrying around 10 books and music devices. At my age, 47--I needed to keep up with my kids. I love the digital books.

"But, I am glad that I did not use any digital format when my kids were young. A
digital format book could have never replaced my then toddler kids looking at Cat In the Hat book and pointing o the pictures. A memory of my daughter asleep while holding the book the Velveteen Rabbit with all it's beautiful illustrations cannot be duplicated while holding a kindle or an iPad. The memory of my then three year old son and I reading Are you my Mother by. Dr. Seuss and later finding his scribbles in the book are precious. I am glad I have those memories. We still go to Barnes and Noble and hang out looking at books. HOWEVER, my son wanted to purchase some books from Barnes and Noble and I, instead of purchasing the books at Barnes and Noble downloaded the books via my iBooks my iPad for him to read. Such is the death of music and book stores." Kathy Thompson


***
"I feel the reason these type of stores are closing is because of how they operate. First is the price game. The consumer is not stupid he gets the sale flyers on sunday and on new release tuesday he goes to the store with the lowest price. Second is stock. Stores today do not want to stock a item they feel nobody in the area will purchase. Every tuesday I and others that I encounter at the local stores looking for a new release are told we do not have it because we feel nobody will buy it.

"So I guess I and the others are Mr and Ms Nobody. You do not know how many tuesdays I spend going 45 miles or more to another town to purchase my item or being forced to order online because the stores here will not carry the items. I have tried everything. Customer service has gone out the window. I will admit two stores out of the many I contacted wrote me back and had the purchaser call me in person to talk about this. They said they would contact the distributers and try to get the products in store and it should not be a problem since they sell those names from those distributers. Update til this day nothing has been done and the products have not arrived because the stores and distributers do not care. They would rather sell 50 different versions of the same cd or movie over and over then get the new release. Then they say they do not have the space in the store? Well how many versions of the same cd or dvd with just new cover art do you need? Get rid of those and you will have space for the new. In addition it goes further up the ladder." Edward Pirigyi


***
"My book Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves was released May 2011 and I've noticed that my bestseller ranking on Kindle consistently out performs the paperback version. Do I care that more people buy my book in a digital form verses a hard copy form? Absolutely not. Like many non-fiction authors, I feel the point of writing is to share my thoughts and expertise with as many people as possible. The increase in cheaper digital formats of books is great for accomplishing this goal. As a consumer and book lover, the ability to buy twice as many digital books for the cost of a single paperback makes sense. I feel the future success for bookstores will depend on their ability to provide digital formats that will be compatible with Kindle, Nook, and smartphones. Smaller stores may have to work out affiliate relationship with larger digital retailers (Amazon, B and N, etc) to supply their formats via their websites to help maintain their bottom line. To capitalize on hard copy sales, bookstores will need to become more creative in developing ways to get people inside their stores. Author readings and book signings may not be a big enough incentive in this market, but an authors tea to introduce a suspense book or Amish food sampling to release an Amish romance may get more people through their doors." Saundra Dalton-Smith M.D


Want to add your thoughts to this discussion? Feel free to post it on our website here or email me directly at cawebb4@juno.com. Your comments could end up in a future edition of Conversations Magazine. We look forward to hearing from you.