Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Author Guest Post & Author Interview: Bruce Farrell Rosen, Author of If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Bruce Farrell Rosen, author of If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away!

Find Joy Despite Life's Obstacles
Bruce F. Rosen

Beneath the noise of our daily lives, filled with traffic congestion and sirens, incessant text messages and emails demanding answers, obligations that we strive to fulfill is our true self, aching to experience and express joy, which is our birthright. Here are six ways to allow joy to enter our lives:

1. Let joy in.

You can't obtain it like a material possession. It washes over you when you are doing the best you can to live an honest life and make wise choices. When you allow yourself to love yourself and let go, you see that there are many things in life to treasure.

2. Give and receive, gracefully.

Try to limit pride and need to control. Selfless giving brings peacefulness, resulting in joy. Gratitude allows you to accept the blessings of life, and then offer them in return.

3. Let go of regret and guilt, and move on.

Perhaps the time has come for a relationship to end. This is not to say that you shouldn't regret. Regret is necessary to educate your actions, to realize that you have made mistakes, to acknowledge failures. However, it can destroy your health, rob you of self-worth, deprive a life of the blessings of happiness and joy if not mitigated.

4. Do what you love in any way possible.

Music is magical. People create with voice and instrument sounds that soothe the Gods, as well as themselves. Enjoy theater, politics, and sports or recreation. Enjoy that you have a body that magically follows your commands. There is joy in being human. So, do what you love.

5. Laugh more.

You are a child when you are young. But you are also a child when you are in your twenties and thirties, seventies and eighties and beyond. And your inner child wants to laugh. When my mom was alive, her laughter amazed me. In her sixties, she laughed with the infectious, joyful, contagious sound - dimples deepening within her cheeks - of a little kid. She brought joy wherever she went. The joy of laughter is an inheritance from my mom. We all inherit so much from those we love who have passed on - allow yourself to recognize, appreciate, and be joyful over the good that you have inherited - it is who you are.

6. Let go of your cares and worries.

You take your cares and worries seriously, but you also take yourself lightly enough to be kind and gentle with yourself to let them go. To accept that we are human, fallible, ultimately we need to be kind to ourselves. All things must pass, including your life. You are here a short time. So, find more joy in your journey!


Author Interview with Bruce Farrell Rosen
If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away

Comparing your book to Eat, Pray, Love, you call yourself a tour guide on this journey of "what it means to be alive". Can you elaborate on this?

Although different from Eat, Pray, Love, the similarity is that the book is borne in the aftermath of the break-up of my 25 year marriage, and this resulted in searching my soul for the reasons, trying to understand my life through the journeys I have taken, and appreciating the freedom to take further journeys of the soul and the heart. By striving to relay as clearly as possible the sights, sounds, fragrances, music and lyrics of my life's path, I hope to inspire the reader to take their own journey of discovery. 

What inspired you to write your memoir? Is it different from other life stories?

I knew from the age of eight that I would write a significant work one day. I think this book is different because of the impressive recall of details, conversations, scents, sounds, music and the thoughts associated with it all. It covers enormous territory, life, death, the collapse of the economy, the events, music, and drugs of the late sixties, the psychic world and the lessons provided by my psychic mom, her special gifts to me as she directed me on my path. It also includes the fascinating travel and people I met on these journeys through Costa Rica as a college student, hopping freight trains at the age of sixteen and growing up that resulted from it, the experience of an abusive father and the forgiving though not forgetting associated with the relationship. 

You have the same publisher as William Saroyan, Laurence Ferlinghetti and Allan Ginsberg. The BBC and the Baseball Hall of Fame featured you. Has this been life-changing?

Meeting my very experienced and talented publisher Donald Ellis has been life changing. He believed in this book from the beginning. What was perhaps even more important was his interest in getting to know and understand me, the person. And, it was a thrill to know my story on Sandy Koufax pitching went out to every journalist and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He even signed the article and told me I had done a great job. The BBC series started with a San Francisco Chronicle piece I wrote after Princess Diana died. They loved it and read it on the air. This led to a series of pieces called "Diary of a Creative Banker", which was broadcast all over the world. I recorded several of them in the BBC studios, right next to where the Beatles played. Talk about an exciting and life-changing experience!

How did you get successful at your craft? What tips do you have for others hoping to publish their work? Have you always been a writer?

On the verge of dropping out of high school, my English teacher gave me a writing assignment saying this was the only way I could avoid failing. After reading the paper, with the beginnings of tears in her eyes, she said that I had the "battle half won", that I was one of the best writers she'd ever had in a classroom. That it was up to me, now, to apply myself. That conversation changed my life.

You say your book is about joy, the memory of joy, the joy we carry with us. Why?

My mom, despite her many trials and tribulations, was filled with joy and a love of life. Whenever I think of my mom, I am filled with joy. Throughout my life I have felt deep joy in the things that make me tick: a joy of watching and playing sports I love; a great joy in friendships; joy in watching my fantastic boys grow up, and joy in being able to give them what it takes to be loving, appreciative, compassionate, creative souls. There is joy in music, a passion for travel, and the realization that life is a gift.

To help support your family, your psychic mother "read" for celebrities like Marlon Brando and helped rich and poor alike. How did her advice help you and others?

My mom's advice was never wrong when it came to me. She even described the woman that I would marry saying that no matter what I do I wouldn't find her, that she would inevitably find me. She was right, I was eventually found by Sue, and it became true love for sure. If there were certain events that my mom felt I must be open to receiving, she would tell me usually in a tea leaf reading. And, inevitably, what she saw would occur. Yet, it isn't just the information she gave, it was the healing, the love. She helped so many people in their lives.

Even though your mom is no longer alive, she continues to have an extraordinary influence over you. How is that possible?

I feel her presence often. Perhaps she is even writing these words for me; knowing my mom, I wouldn't rule it out. Every once in a while I'll have a dream about her that doesn't feel like a dream. She lends her presence to me in these moments; and when I awake it feels like there is no way she isn't alive. Basically, I feel her around me much of the time.

Toronto born, you grew up in Montreal and Campbellton, New Brunswick. Yet, the part of your childhood in Southern California was your most cherished. Why?

While I spent most of my life in California (we moved back after I pleaded with my mom to do so in 1968) the Canada years feel like a large part of my life, so much "coming of age" occurred at this time. However, California is where my heart wanted to be. It was the baseball, the warm summers playing it in the fields and going to Dodger stadium that pulled me back as much as anything. I belonged in California; my soul belonged here.

How has your Jewish upbringing impacted you?

My mom told me that it is very special to be a Jew, and that I should always stand up for myself as a Jew. My father encouraged me to never deny that I am a Jew, and to not accept anti-Semitism. He told me not to look for a fight, but to not back down if one came my way as a result of religion. So, my Jewish identity was established early.

Your Buddhist turned Rabbi, Alan Lew, felt so moved by your mom after she died that he delivered Alma's sermon on Rosh Hashanah. How has this inspired you?

It continues to inspire me today. When my mom came to him with the words for his Rosh Hashanah  sermon - I felt a deep love for the man, a feeling that his heart was so open that he had to go with the guidance that was being given by my mom. The sermon was stirring, affirming, and in it I heard my mom's words in the Rabbi's words. I felt a sense that she was right and meant it when she told me "If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away".

Why is fate so important to you? What can readers learn from this?

In the book I grapple with the degree to which we have choice, and to which choice has limitations and fate takes over. I wrestled with these issues as a Philosophy major in college. Every action that we take in life effects and is affected by other action. Choices made mean other choices not taken. But to not take a direction is a choice, and perhaps fate involves an understanding that though choices seem available in the moment, there really is no way they could have been taken under the circumstances. I felt that way about the character "M", which is the catalyst for writing this book. Believing in fate is not an invitation to be lazy; it comes from an understanding that there is a limitation upon making choices.

You have experienced losses throughout your life, from your mother, to a best friend, to two friends who were killed after hitchhiking. How has this affected you?

This affected my life profoundly. The two girls that were murdered were angels. I was in shock when it happened, and perhaps I still suffer from some sort of post-traumatic shock of losing them. My best friend passed away in his early forties, and his name is the title of the section, Phillip Rusty Siegler. I have missed his loyalty and friendship for many years. And, of course, my mom. I believe that her loss would be felt over the course of my lifetime, because it would be too great to absorb at once. Again, I believe in her words, the title of my book, If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away. She is my best friend.

You went through a painful break up after 25 years of marriage. What advice do you have for others struggling with separation?

Don't feel shame or regret over something that cannot be mended. But, by all means, give communication with your spouse the best chance of succeeding. But if it cannot succeed, be brave and recognize that sometimes events change and we really do not have a choice.

You write about the joys of parenthood. Yet - you had an abusive father. How were you able to forgive and heal? How can others do the same?

Although I cannot forget, I was able to forgive and heal because holding anger, hostility, and resentment, has negative consequences for our lives and health. Standing with my father where he grew up in Montreal, I could see him as a young man with his own dreams, ambitions, hopes, fears, passions. He was a young man carrying the fatherly baggage of his actions. He is my father, and I love him as that, a fallible, imperfect human being. 

Having sons in the music and acting industry, how do you encourage them?

I tell them that they have the talent to pursue their dreams. That life will do its best to put obstacles in the way of fulfilling your dreams, but to be true to those artistic passions. As long as they give it everything they have, I am behind them 100 percent.

Your travels took you to Costa Rica, Paris, Florence, and a cross country hitchhiking/train trip. You even were in London during the terrorist bombings and in Bangkok during the coup. What were some of your most memorable experiences?

Certainly the trip to Costa Rica as a young man being introduced to prostitutes! And, going to London will always bring back the eighteen year old boy that visited there as a first time. Hopping freights across the country when I was sixteen, after my father left the house, is very memorable. And I will never forget the torment that my mom had gone through when she hadn't heard from me and her joy when she finally did. There are a couple of traveling moments that occurred after my separation that were profound: One was meeting up with my son, Jonathan, in Cinque Terre, after he graduated from high school and was traveling across Europe with friends. The boys call it a highlight of the trip. It was a lifetime highlight for me.

Sports, music, spirituality, politics, and even a stint at a Chinese newspaper when you called yourself Bruce Wong. Why do all these play a major role in your memoir?

The stint at a Chinese newspaper when I first moved to San Francisco established my presence in this city. I was Bruce Wong the advertising salesperson, but at the same time, Bruce Rosen the journalist. I had been entranced by Chinatown as a child; so to be working in this community was a fantasy. That Chinatown section is one of my favorites in the book. I've described how sports define me and the joy I have for playing and watching - I love the community and heroism of playing sports. Spirituality, not in adhering to ritual, but in a belief in God defines me as a person; Politics is great theatre; and I always enjoy a debate, especially when a person is intransigent in their thinking.

You are a financial advisor by day and a writer by night. How has your financial background shaped your world view and writing?

My financial training has made me very grounded and realistic. I retain my idealism, but feel very down to earth, at this work. Both sides of the brain, the pragmatic/numerical as well as the creative/literary inform each other well as a result of this line of work.

You have written a 650 page memoir. If there's only one message you could leave readers with, what would it be?

Believe that dreams can be made real if you have the determination to do so; never give up on a dream if it is part of who you are. 

Thank you Bruce for allowing me the opportunity to interview you on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for taking the time to share somethings about yourself and your writing career with us!

About The Author:

An investment officer at a major financial firm by day, Bruce F. Rosen is an award winning writer by night. He has been featured in such venues as The San Francisco Chronicle, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and on the BBC with his slice of life pieces titled "Diary of  a Creative Banker". The father of two sons, he lives and works in San Francisco. 

BUY THE BOOK: If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away

Book Description: If You Ever Need Me, I Won't Be Far Away

This is the heartfelt memoir of award-winning writer Bruce Farrell Rosen. As Rosen faces the unraveling of his marriage, he delves deeply into the nature of his greatest loves - for his psychic mother, his wife of 25 years, his two talented sons, music, world travel and exploration in all of its forms. Rosen offers a road map for all of us who are struggling with life's momentous problems to come to terms with all that has been given us and to prepare for what may be in store. Ultimately, it is a book about joy, the memory of joy, and the joy we carry with us.

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