Author Highlight – C. Hope Clark

I first heard Hope speak at the Missouri Writer’s Guild conference a back in 2012. I loved the fact that she always smiled, and consistently wove positivity in her talks.

When I discovered Hope and I were featured authors at a booksigning at Columbia, South Carolina’s Irmo Branch Library in March, 2015, I suggested our husbands meet over dinner the evening prior to the event. After three hours of lively conversation on writing, vacations, dogs, and various topics, we almost closed down the restaurant. Looking around at nearby tables, we didn’t recognize any of the original patrons when first seated. We decided to leave the waitress a NICE tip.

This is the second author highlight on C. Hope Clark, I’ve done, and I admit, she is one busy woman. Hope her answers provide insight for authors everywhere.

 

1) Is it important for writers to help each other, and not charge for services – kind of a quid pro quo – as long as the writer has already developed a mutual relationship with each other?

I believe that writers naturally help each other, and it’s up to each individual to determine where that line starts and stops. At what point do we remain the professional and charge, and at what point do we give back? In this profession, there’s an assumption that writers are not supposed to get wealthy off their words. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice. I believe that a writer needs to set limits on the giving back or they’ll be sucked dry. But time is money in this industry, so each side has to respect that of the other.

 

2) If an author could concentrate on doing three things after their book is published, what would those three things be?

First – Never let one day go by without promoting the book somewhere.

Second – Start work on the next book.

Third – Keep an active chatter online about the book, it’s progress, appearances, reviews, etc. and that includes a newsletter.

 

3) What conferences nationwide could you recommend for the development of an author of any genre? Specific genres?

There are dozens and dozens of conferences each month. And each author needs to decide what they wish out of a conference before they select one. For instance, are they trying to pitch a manuscript? Then find one rich with agents and publishers taking pitches. Or are they working on craft and are a beginner? Or are they seasoned and need in depth work in a masterclass setting? Or do they want to rub elbows with other authors in their genre, necessitating a conference like Killer Nashville for mystery. Do they want a CON or a conference? Bouchercon is a fan-based conference as well as an educational conference. It’s huge, which begs another questions . . . does an author want to attend an event with 800 people or do they prefer something more intimate with 50? Do they want to go someplace exotic or tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Do they want to talk the business side of things or just craft?

As you can see, I’d have to list 50 conferences here to address everyone’s needs and even them would only cover one or two conferences per category. To find conferences, research WritersDigest.com (and then search “conferences”), Poets&Writers (https://www.pw.org/classifieds) , ShawGuides.com, then of course there’s the Association of Writers and Writing Conferences (https://www.awpwriter.org/wcc/directory_conferences_centers) .

 

4) How do you choose your book clubs, or do they choose you?

I scrounge for book clubs because most of them are very obscure and private, but I have to admit that they contact me. There is no one place to find book clubs because most don’t want to be found online. Libraries and bookstores know the local clubs and can make connections. But it also helps to have a book club section on your website. What makes landing book clubs difficult is the fact many book clubs go by bestseller lists in making their selections. Or from lists recommended on Goodreads.

 

5) How do you escape from your writing during the day? When you have writer’s block?

My escape is gardening, raising chickens, reading, and crosswords. My husband says I love reading anything and can’t stand not to have words in front of me. Maybe not that true, but I do adore reading, and I have books on my nightstand, near my computer, and next to my recliner. I can rarely just watch television. It has to be a superb show. Otherwise, I’m glancing at writing how-to books and mags, keeping a journal, or doing crosswords. But gardening takes me away from writing, but I still plot while pulling up weeds and tying tomatoes. And I make myself think about a chapter as I go to sleep at night. You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve awoken in the morning with an idea.

Writer’s block? Sorry, do not believe in it. We can always write. It might not be the project we want to work on, but we can write. I’m a believer in plowing through the tougher days of writing. If I am choosing to write for a living, then I am choosing to ignore writer’s block. I have to report to work. No other job lets you go home on those days you don’t feel like working.

 

BIO:Hope and Emily Grace (2)

C. Hope Clark’s  newest release is Newberry Sin. Hope is author of two award-winning mystery series, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. She teaches writers at conferences nationwide and is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the last 18 years. www.chopeclark.com

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Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,

Sheree

A Writer, a Cameraman, a Castlebuilder, and a Paddleboarding Dog

Early morning Saturday May 17, hubby, Russell and I parked the Chevy Equinox near the 40th Street beach access on Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

With cameras and canteens draped over our shoulder, and two excited canines by our sides, we hightailed it to the shoreline for the 40 minute trek to the Kindred Spirit Bench.

The Kindred Spirit Bench, located on Bird Island, North Carolina was recently featured on CBS News. It’s an inspirational spot where people from all over leave their thoughts in the many journals, housed inside the Kindred Spirit mailbox. An anonymous originator placed the box there some 30+ years ago. My friend Jacqueline DeGroot, and friend Sandy Payne, are the Keepers – transporting the filled journals safely to their destination – U of NC.

The vista of the dunes and beach as viewed from the bench is breathtaking. It’s the maple syrup to my pancake, the hot fudge to my sundae, the chocolate in my cappuccino. It’s simply divine!

On this radiant Saturday morning, people were walking in droves — numbers I’d never seen before down the shoreline. More than I’d encountered on my last two visits to the Kindred Spirit Bench.

A sultry summer’s day, the air was hot, the sea was calm, and I was in my element. Russell walked briskly, and I kept rhythm by scuffling my sandals against the hard–packed sand. With the dogs’ tags jingling, our Bernese Aussie mix trotted in bow-legged fashion, and our mini Australian Shepherd stepped lightly like a ballet dancer.

Along the way, we met a lovely couple, Justin and Ashley, and her parents. As we walked, we talked, and learned a lot about each other. A writer, Ashley liked to collect shells for her students as a way of expressing themselves. They lived a mere three hours from Sunset Beach, and visited the Kindred Spirit Bench the same time each year.

DSCN0830 the four of usSpotting the Kindred Spirit mailbox, we climbed the sand dune and sat on the bench. Ashley and I chatted more about writing means to both of us. Afterwards, the six of us each took a turn penning our thoughts in the journals. We snapped some photos together to capture the memory of our visit.

DSCN0826 Ashley and me

At the bench, we met a guy wearing a Jason Mraz hat, and some cool spectacles – Colin, and his Italian Greyhound, Dan. On our return walk, we talked about photography. Exchanging pleasantries, I discovered Colin was the cameraman for The Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men. The Big Bang Theory is ONLY my husband’s favorite show.

We took a few breaks so the dogs could frolic. Dan, a mere 10 lbs., ran in circles on the firm sand while our 75 lb. Bernese Aussie mix chased him. Unable to trust our mini Aussie, she was given only 15 foot of lead to run. In her mind that wasn’t enough.

DSC_1576 Dan the dog copyr

 

Sauntering down the beach, we neared the 45th Street Beach Access. I spotted a young man in white shirt and black sunglasses building sandcastles, and told hubby, “I’ll be back.”

Upon my approach, I stood back for awhile, and just admired the artist at work.

 

DSCN0848 Lukas and sandcastle“Hey, that’s pretty cool,” I said in an upbeat manner.

“Thank you.”

“ That’s pretty intricate. You an architect?”

Shaking his head no he admitted he had no formal training but came from a family of castlebuilders. “I’m pretty much the only one that’s kept up the castlebuilding.”

His name was Lukas. With a ‘k’.DSCN0852 sandcastle

The sandcastle displayed his handcrafted pottery on different levels. He described himself as a visionary.

As I bid Lukas “Good Day” he neatly wrote his email address on a piece of paper, of which I took a snapshot. He didn’t carry business cards.

As I meandered back to the spot where hubby and Colin were standing, I noticed a young woman with a paddle board entering the water.

Following behind, a man with a board, and a big black dog, entered the ocean. Steadying the board, the woman hopped on, then kneeled. The man, placed the board on the water’s surface, and the black dog jumped on, balancing on all four legs. Amazing. The man jumped on, kneeling astride the dog. The three of them floated effortlessly in the shallows for sometime – a serene watercolor painting.

DSC_1585 roscoe paddleboard crop copyrThere’s something peaceful and magical a man and his dog bonding with the rhythm of the sea.

After the couple and dog exited the crystal clear water, I headed in their direction. Russell, Colin and the dogs followed behind. I was curious to learn about the surfboarding dog.

“What’s his name?”

“Roscoe.”

Close up, Roscoe made our dogs look insignificant and tiny. He was an enormous canine, and appeared lean and muscular under the mass of wet black hair. The couple admitted Roscoe started surfboarding as a pup, and loved it. As I shook hands, and bid my goodbyes, I let them know they’d just made my day.

DSC_1595 roscoe and his owner copyrNearing the 40th Street beach access, we spotted my in-laws waving at us.

And I think we made a new friend. After running into Colin all week, we just decided to exchange information.

colin and the dogsWe keep in touch through social media. I love seeing photos of Dan the Dog, who has his own twitter feed. Colin’s a talented photographer. Maybe he’ll meet us on the sandy shores of Sunset Beach next May, and make the trek to the Kindred Spirit Bench once more?

Hope you get the chance to make new friends on your journey through life.

Writers, photographers, cameramen, poets, painters, sculptors, and songwriters all creating their own dream.

And even paddleboarding dogs…

A Well Versed book launch, and writing

On Sunday July 14, Donna Volkennant, Marcia Gaye. Lynn Obermoeller, and I made the trek to Columbia, Missouri for the Well Versed Literary Works 2013 Book Launch.  Well Versed is the literary anthology for the Columbia Chapter of Missouri Writer’s Guild.  The four of us were contributing writers.

About a 90-minute drive one way, we shared stories on how we met our husbands, and talked about many topics.  The conversation was easy, like smooth butterscotch sauce flowing in slow-motion over homemade vanilla ice cream.  It seemed as if we’d know each other for years.

And before you knew it, I was pulling into the driveway of the Unity Center in Columbia.

We arrived early, so I foraged a few snacks for my gurgling tummy, grabbed a bottle of water, and settled in for readings from the anthology’s authors.

Lynn Obermoeller read her essay “I Don’t Remember” about a day in seventh grade she had little memory of (except that it was picture day, and the dress she wore was baby poop-colored with paisley stripes).

I read my essay “Breakfast With the Queen” about Midnight, our butter-eating black cat and her morning breakfast ritual.  Two of my poems were in the book.  One poem recalled a snow-white day in winter.  The other poem was a kindergarten memory that scarred me for life.

Eva Ridenour’s poem titled “Dust” was laugh-out-loud funny.

Suzanne Norton’s poem “Rupture”, an emotional poem about birth and rebirth, had me on the edge of my seat.

I noticed something about myself while listening to the book’s authors reading their selected works.

My breathing slowed.

My body relaxed.

My mind was open.  Open to the artistic and imaginative use of words.

Words.  Smart, sassy, funny and raw.

Each writer – a prolific artist.

Each author, vulnerable.

And I enjoyed myself.

One of the lucky ones, I’m proud to say “I’m a writer and loving it”.  Although writers are many, we’re a close-knit group of individuals – spanning the globe.  Connected by email, facebook and twitter — writers know no boundaries.

It’s kind of a weird thing how tight knit we are.  I can’t really explain it, unless of course, you’re a writer.

So here’s to Linda Fisher for doing a fine job as Managing Editor for Well Versed Literary Works 2013.  The authors well represented the anthology.

Looking forward to next year’s event.

Lynne, Marcia, Donna, me, Linda

Lynne, Marcia, Donna, me, Linda

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I fought the good fight (Midlife Collage weekly contest)….

Updated July 16, 2013

Well, I fought the good fight.  The Midlife Collage weekly contest for July 8 is over.   Sadly, I didn’t win but apparently was tied for first according to the editor’s comments on Monday July 15.  Here’s the link to the winner’s circle, where I it appears I ran neck-in-neck with the winner.  http://midlifecollage.com/winner-circle/

One thing I did learn about myself and my character.  I worked hard to market myself, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.  Makes me feel good.

When I do publish my inspirational essay and poetry collection with lyrical introductory photos of nature, family and beach scenes, I feel confident my voice will be heard via social media.  During the contest, I relied heavily on facebook and twitter.  My longtime friends, writers, and even newfound buddies came through for me giving me thumbs up, penning high quality comments, and even writing closing arguments.

So here’s to social media.

Maybe I am learning a thing or two.

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Dear Kindred Spirit…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMay 22, 2013

Dear Kindred Spirit,

It’s not a coincidence that God brought me to you.

In April, I visited Sunset Beach for the first time.  I heard how Bird Island was a hidden gem!

That day I meandered down the beach, and a little boy threw a bucket of water on me. His actions were followed by an apology…..by his mother.

Sitting on her beach chair, she relaxed reading a book.

We conversed.

“First time here?”

“Yes.”

“You should check out the Kindred Spirit bench on Bird Island.  People from all over the world visit the bench and leave their thoughts and prayers in the mailbox’s journals.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA salty tear trickled down my cheek.

Being here now is a peaceful feeling.  I’m sure it was meant to be.

As a writer, this spot moves my inner soul.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m here with new friends Jacqueline and Sandy who are so important to the Kindred Spirit.  Today, they hoisted a flag for Memorial Day and all the veterans we’ve lost over the years.  I call them the Kindred Spirit angels.  They retrieve the journals and send them back to their secret originator.

Jacqueline and Sandy with new flag

Jacqueline and Sandy with new flag

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m sure I’ll be back.

There are so many people here, now, sharing the spirit.  Everyone is connected to each other.

I pray that my lymphoma never gets any worse than it is, my marriage to grow stronger, and God to watch over my ‘child’ animals, family and friends.

So long for now Kindred Spirit,

Sheree Nielsen

Missouri

Jackie and Sandy with Max who hoisted the flag Memorial Day 2012.

Jackie and Sandy with Max who hoisted the flag Memorial Day 2012.

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Review of Not Your Mother’s Book on Travel

Travel coverA surprise came in the mail yesterday in the form of a contributor’s copy on Not Your Mother’s Book on Travel.

The book looks super, and is an effort from writers all over the world created by Dahylnn McKowen, Ken McKowen, and Terri Elders.  Dahylnn and Ken have over 60 years writing and publishing experience, with ten of those years spent as consultants and coauthors for four Chicken Soup Series.  Terri has traveled the globe with the Peace Corps.

So excited, I couldn’t wait to dig into the book.  Russell and I motored to the local Starbucks yesterday, I ordered a wet cappuccino, and I opened the pages of the anthology.

Three local authors and I are holding a book signing at the Barnes and Noble Store in St. Peters, Missouri on June 1. Naturally, I was curious to see their final creation, so I skimmed the Table of Contents until I located their specific chapter.

Linda O’Connell’s “Ordering A la Carte” was set on a cruise ship.  Her main character had me laughing out loud. The staff at Starbucks had to turn around to see the commotion I was causing.  My laughter, now infectious, had them laughing, as well.

I shrieked with laughter as I read, Greg Lamping’s “They Only Come Out at Night” about an overnight camping trip and the critters he and his wife encountered.  I’m glad I was wearing a Depends, ‘cause I almost peed myself.

And Sioux Roslawski’s “Half Right” made me smile from ear-to-ear.  While in France, do as the French do.  Nuff said.

I searched for other writer friends in the book…

“My Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow was one woman’s whimsical recreation of a scene from a movie classic.  New York City in the early morning…  I could almost picture myself in Elynne’s shoes.

Another Missouri author, Mary-Lane Kamberg wrote about flying when the swine flu epidemic was in the news.  “When Pigs Fly” is priceless.

And of course, my essay, “No Bad Juju Allowed” is about keeping your sense of humor on a scuba live-aboard during Tropical Storm Jerry.

Terri Elders has stories in the anthology as well. Can’t wait to meet her – she seems pretty cool.  I’ll see her at our book signing.

So go get your copy of “Not Your Mother’s Book… on Travel” by Publishing Syndicate.  You won’t be disappointed.  The authors in the book are rare gems.

Nurturing Paws receives “Recommended” rating from US Review of Books

     Just received this email from my editor at Whispering Angel Books.  My essay, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” is in the book, along with works from two local authors — Faye Adams and Linda O’Connell.
Hi Nurturing Paws Contributors,
     The US Review of Books recently reviewed Nurturing Paws and gave it a “Recommended” rating.  Please pass along the good news to your friends, family and followers!  If you choose to quote this review, please attribute it to The US Review of Books.
Take care,
Lynn Johnston

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Author Spotlight – Five Questions – Sandra Carrington-Smith

Hi friends,

Hopefully I am starting a new trend on blog – author inteviews.  Sandra Carrington-Smith agreed to be the first!  Sandra’s dedication and perseverance as a writer is inspiring.

Please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post, or follow my blog.  While you’re here, check out the other posts and pages on inspirational messages of travel, nature, friends and family.

Okay, Sandra, let’s get started!

Question –   In your opinion, what does it take to be a good writer?

I believe there are several factors that play into becoming a good writer. For one thing, you must enjoy writing for the sheer sake of it, and whether you think that you will have one reader or a million, the quality of the books you produce must be exceptional. It is also important to develop a tough skin and remain open to constructive criticism, but it is equally vital to understand that you can’t please everybody. Finally, your passion must bleed through your words, so you should focus on writing around topics that you would choose for your own reading pleasure.

Question –  As Anne Lamott once said in “bird by bird’, it is important to have a moral position no matter what you do in life. What is your moral position?

My moral position is a simple one…I apply the Golden Rule to everything I do in life. Writing and networking are no exception.

Question –  Take us through Sandra’s day of self-discipline as a writer.

My days are pretty standard, since aside from writing, I am also raising children and running a household. I usually network and do a little marketing first thing in the morning, before the children wake up or after they leave for school. The rest of the day is almost completely absorbed by mundane tasks, but as soon as everyone goes to bed, that’s when I put on my writing cap and dive into my stories. The timing is flexible and depending on the kids’ schedules. During the summer, when they are out of school, I write all night and sleep in the next morning. When they are in school, I go to bed earlier, but then use the time when they are gone to write. On average, I write about three or four hours every day.

Question  –  Any quick tips for new writers?

An easy one: Don’t give up! Ever. If writing is your passion, there is a door, somewhere, that will lead you to the right place. The business of writing has changed a lot, and new writers have a plethora of new tools at their disposal they can use to get their work out there.

Question  – When did you first fall in love with writing?

My love for the written word goes all the way back to my teenage years, when I first started writing poetry. When I moved to a different country, I thought I had left all that behind, since I didn’t think I would ever write in a foreign language. Thankfully, time proved me wrong, the language barriers were overcome, and my old love for writing surfaced anew.

Thanks Sandra for a great interview!

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Sandra Carrington-Smith is an Italian-born author who relocated to the United States in the late 80’s after marrying a US soldier who was serving overseas.

Although writing was Sandra’s deepest passion since childhood, her dream of becoming a published author had to be placed on hold for several years. Moving to a new country provided several challenges, the biggest one being the language barrier she encountered when she first arrived.

In order to become fully integrated, Sandra tapped into her love for reading, and over time her vocabulary grew extensively.

She gave birth to three children and devoted most of her time to raising a family. By the time she was in her late 30’s, Sandra decided to revisit her old passion for writing, and penned a novel of paranormal suspense, The Book of Obeah, followed by a self-improvement book, Housekeeping for the Soul: A Practical Guide to Restoring Your Inner Sanctuary. Both titles were sold to the same publisher and released in 2010, and The Book of Obeah went on to win an international book award.

Currently, Sandra is working on two new novels: The Rosaries (the sequel of The Book of Obeah) and Shadows of a Tuscan Moon. Killer in Sight (A Tom Lackey Mystery) was released in June 2012. Sandra Carrington-Smith lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, children and three cats.

2012 Missouri Writer’s Guild Awards Banquet

Last evening I attended the Missouri Writer’s Guild banquet at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Chesterfield, Missouri.

I made new acquaintances, ran into old friends, and met facebook buddies for the first time.  The food was good, the conversation was lively, and I was in special company – the company of others that share my passion  –  writing.

Especially surprised and elated, I won two awards, and I told Marcia Gaye she was the good luck charm at our table (and a big award winner at last year’s gala.)

I received Third Place for Best Poem, sponsored by Mozark Press.  My poem, Carolina Delight, reminisced about my love affair with Folly Beach, South Carolina and garnered publication in the Folly Current Newspaper at least two times in 2011.   Little did I know there were over 600 poems submitted in this category, so I felt truly blessed.

I received 2nd Honorable Mention for Best Newspaper Article or Column, sponsored by the Missouri Press Association, for an article I penned for AOL/St. Charles Patch in 2011 on master gardener Anne Tansey of St. Charles.   I swear, it had to be one of the hottest days of the year, and yet Anne kept her wonderful garden looking healthy and vibrant.   And if those plants could’ve spoken, I am sure they would have said “I love you” for all the TLC she showed them.  The article was entitled Garden Party: A Master Gardener’s Not-So-Secret Garden.

Sunday morning, I attended Christina Katz’s master class where I shared the company of ten energetic and exciting women writers.  I had a blast.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to be in the company of such creative minds  and hear about everyone’s projects, successes and even tribulations.   Inspiration surrounded me.

And if anyone has pics from the conference, please send them to me.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said –