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Judy Zummo – Winter is a Wonderful Time to Take Care of Important Things

Judy Zummo

I listened to the weather forecast last night and got my hopes up.   The weather-person predicted “above normal temperatures, sunshine with a few high clouds and zero percent chance of rain.“  I decided immediately that the next day would be perfect for a long walk with the dog.  It would be a day to get rid of the cobwebs that had formed in my head and find an inspiration that had been frozen in my brain due to the long frigid winter.    But what am I doing now-I am sitting by the window watching the snow accumulate on the grass and on the top of my car!  In my next life I will comeback tall, beautiful and be a weather girl!   I will predict the weather that I would like to have and hope for the best.    If I get it wrong I will simply say, “the winds changed.”  “El Nino or la Nina is out of sorts.”  “We did not know that that the volcano that has lain dormant in the Indian Ocean for one thousand years would decide to erupt today.”

Being a meteorologist is the only profession that I know of where a person can be wrong more than half the time and still get paid.   Can you imagine how long a math teacher would keep a job if the students were given a worksheet for homework on which they were to find the area of a triangle after being given the formula A=πr^2!

Yes, definitely in my next life I will be a meteorologist.

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Peter Stipe – How to Cope with a Broken Heart

Peter Stipe

On the first page of The Art of Love I let the reader know that the protagonist, the young art student Patrick will have his heart broken.  The readers then watch Patrick meeting Mary, falling in love and both of them stumbling along in their relationship.  When I met the Delta Kappa Gamma book club a week ago they all said they grew increasingly hopeful as they read the book that Patrick and Mary could somehow make their relationship work.  Even though they knew from the first page that it would fail, they kept hoping it would all work out for the best.

This has been a typical response of people who have read The Art of Love.  I asked DKG as I have asked other readers, “Have you ever been in love?”  DKG readers answered, as most of my readers have, “Yes, of course.”  I followed up with my next customary question.  “And have you had your heart broken?”  Again, the usual answer has been, “Yes.”  I could have written a traditional “Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, get married and raise a family” kind of story.  But the struggle is in making the relationship work.  Many times it doesn’t work and that’s where the best stories come from.  That’s where I as the author and you as the reader find tension.  Heartbreak makes a good story because we have all muddled through a broken heart.  We can all identify with Patrick when his relationship with Mary fails.

Patrick and Mary are friends with an artistic power couple, Melanie and Aaron.  They offer a contrast to the naivety of Patrick and Mary.  Melanie and Aaron are beautiful, successful, and rich, living a dream life in a fashionable loft apartment above their art gallery.  Patrick idolizes Aaron and hopes to be like him after he graduates art school, selling great art and living with Mary.  Mary wishes she could be more like Melanie in many ways but can’t bring herself to live that life.  Ironically, Melanie wishes she could be a little more like Mary and walk away from her wild lifestyle and past.  As the story develops Patrick and Mary discover that this seemingly ideal relationship is not all they have believed it to be.  That is a different kind of heartbreak, seeing our friends love stories falling apart.

As the reader turns the pages of The Art of Love they begin rooting for Patrick and Mary.  They are charmed by Melanie and Aaron.  We care about these characters.  But remember. We read on page one that it will fall apart, things will go bad.  Isn’t that the way it is with the relationships so many of us have been involved with?  We care about the other person, we ignore the signs that things are going wrong and cling to the hope that it will all work out.

That might be the beauty of my story.  With love we are almost always optimistic.  But too often it all comes apart.  That is why our hearts break when we lose love.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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Peter Stipe – A Storyteller

Peter Stipe

I have been a storyteller for years, but I was never able to do anything with my stories until I retired.  I was extremely consistent in my work habits back in my professional days.  Some might even have called my work ethic compulsive.  Before I retired I worked long hours and was a frequent business traveler.  I was also a marathon runner, training at least an hour every day.  Balancing my career, my training runs and my family left little time for me to put my stories down in writing.  I wrote at the end of long days when I was tired.  I wrote alone in my hotel room when I was on business trips.

Now that I have retired all of these themes in my life have converged.  I write as conscientiously as I used to run.  All the stories that had piled up unedited during my career were waiting in one ragged state or another.  When I met my publisher, High Tide Publications, it gave me the motivation and focus to dedicate myself to writing at least several hours every day including the weekends.  The results?  I have had two books published in two years; Finding Our Way, a short story anthology, and The Art of Love, my first novel.  I have two new books well under way at this point and am almost finished with one of them.  I will chronicle my progress with these two books in this blog in the weeks ahead.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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Peter Stipe – The Value of an Obsessive Compulsive Lifestyle

Peter Stipe

Many years ago I was Director of Training and Development for a large facilities management company with several hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue.  I worked closely with a man named John.  He had immigrated to the United States as a child, speaking no English.  He taught himself English by watching Sesame Street and by compulsively reading every book he could get his hands on.  Poverty caused him to quit school when he turned sixteen to help his family by going to work as a window washer.  The scaffold collapsed one day, dropping him three stories and breaking his back.  He was bed-ridden for a month while he recovered which gave him the opportunity to read a new book every day.

John had no high school diploma but he was one of the smartest, best-educated people I ever worked with.  He had progressed over the years and had worked his way up to become Executive Vice President of Operations at that huge company.  His face was lined, his back was hunched but he was still a worker.  As when he was younger, he still came to work at dawn and left after dinner in the evening.

I recall travelling on business with John, rushing through the Pittsburgh airport, a facility we managed.  Suddenly John wasn’t beside me anymore.  I turned and saw him on his knees in the airport concourse.  Dressed in his suit and tie, he was picking at some gum stuck to the carpet, prying at it with a credit card.

“What are you doing?” I shouted.  “We’re going to miss our flight.”

“This is our building,” John answered.  “I need to take care of this.”  He pulled the gum loose, jumped to his feet and threw the gum in the trash as we dashed for our plane.  Many executive leaders would have called in a low-wage worker to handle a menial, small situation like the gum.  Not John.

His advice to me was, “Good enough isn’t.”  Get past the odd sentence structure; think about what that means.  John lived that way in his professional life and in his personal life.  He never accepted that “just okay” was good enough.  He always did more.

In the first story in Finding Our Way, my collection of short stories, I paraphrased John.  Here is my take on his philosophy from that story:  “I believe we should all have audacious goals and dreams and never settle, though we may never find everything we want.”

To live like that is hard, but to achieve excellence we need to be obsessive about how we do things.  We can’t settle for good enough.  And we need to maintain balance in our lives with all the other obligations that tug at us.  We need to be obsessive about sustaining our relationships, our family life, our careers and everything else that make up our audacious goals.  I believe it’s worth the effort to live like that.  It all matters.  Good enough isn’t.  Never settle.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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Peter Stipe – The Trouble with Stereotypes


Peter Stipe

I try not to stereotype people either in my writing or in life.  To make assumptions is risky.  To think that a person must be this way or that because they are male or female, young or old, of a particular ethnic group or occupation is never a good idea.  People are people.  We are all different.

I thought about this a lot this past weekend while watching the Superbowl.  Yes, I love my sports, and being from New England I am passionate about the Patriots and Red Sox.  There is a common stereotype about the people who watch sports.  It begins with gender but it goes deeper.  Too many people who are involved in the arts, male or female, take a position that sports are crass and that athletes are dumb.  On the other hand, too many athletes believe that the arts are for sissies.  Neither appreciates human performance excellence in the other arena.  This is narrow-minded.

I am a writer and also involved with visual arts.  I recently ended a term on the board of the Yorktown Arts Foundation and I have artwork on display in On The Hill Gallery in Yorktown.  When I was younger I was deeply involved in track and field and distance running.  I’ve competed at a high level and I’ve coached some exceptional athletes.  I don’t believe there is a reason why someone can’t love both athletics and art.

In my novel The Art of Love the reader meets Aaron a successful sculptor who works with welded steel.  As the story develops, the reader learns that Aaron played football in high school and is still a huge sports fan.  One reader challenged me on this.  “If Aaron is a talented artist he wouldn’t care about football.”  I answered, “Why not?”  Aaron has other shortcomings and those become a part of the story.  But why assume that a burly welder who uses his welding skills to make art could not be a sports lover?  A different stereotypical question might be why would a football-loving welder care about art?

The two protagonists in The Art of Love, for all their complexities, lack that depth, that mix of many interests.  Neither Patrick nor Mary seems to care about sports or much of anything other than their own narrow lives.  Patrick is obsessed with his painting and Mary studies all the time.  And they love each other.  Maybe if they had lived more rounded lives they would have been more accepting of different ways to live.  Maybe that acceptance could have saved their relationship.  That’s not the way I wrote them.  I drew on the stereotype of artists and academics as people who lack the perspective that comes with involvement in different fields.  That’s part of Patrick’s and Mary’s problem.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  www.Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe