PRESS: PMA Dinner at the Chicago Como Inn, May 28, 1998

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report by Victor Vidal OUTCRY Magazine

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Mary Westheimer's group

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Dan Poynter's group

The PMA members dinner started around 9 p.m. at the Como Inn in Chicago on the Thursday of the Book Expo. People were getting acquainted with the guests at their tables -- asking names and starting conversations. While the dinner was being served, people were supposed to come up with some exciting stories about publishing or anything that has inspired them in the past week. Interestingly, a member started with a story of his finger and many people followed with their own mysterious stories about their fingers -- either stories of finger accidents, or being able to perform finger magic. We heard stories of divorce and a lady who carried a toilet into the airplane. Later, a lady started the story of the advantage of working at home-- either working in underwear or nude. Some men followed with their own stories of working at home nude and other hilarious jokes and stories -- we were entertained. Towards the end, Jan Nathan came into the room to give a brief and warm speech, she was given a standing ovation as the Godmother of the PMA.

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Liz Oakley's group

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Godmother- Jan Nathan

Discussion with Liz Oakley

After the dinner I ran into Ms Liz Oakley who had pretty black hair, and was wearing a flaming red lip-stick -- she looked very attractive! I grabbed her hand cheerfully noting we had gotten in a fight on the internet PMA-list. Withstanding what we discussed in our E.mail exchange, she asked me what was the relationship between what we had discussed and what I said when I addressed the group. Perhaps, I confused some people because I was trying to define "success" and "happiness"  in my process of telling people what actually inspired me prior to coming to the Chicago Book Expo.

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Pat Bell and her group

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Pat Bell giving a speech

What is Happiness?  -- "Success is not happiness!"

I just reached a point in my life where I'm able to define happiness. I realized that triple Ph.D.s, becoming a millionaire, or acquiring power to rule over others may not necessarily bring you lasting happiness. Success through achievements doesn't give you happiness, quite the contrary. But, "if you have happiness, you are a successful person." Money, power and fame are the illusions of success, they don't necessarily give us lasting happiness. That's why we become very miserable and sometimes push ourselves into depression because we attach too much importance to selfish ambitions. As writers and authors, we should ask ourselves the question, "What is success?" Are you successful because your book becomes a bestseller, and will that success bring you happiness? Some people who attained their success by piling up millions of dollars later find out that happiness eluded them. Others who acquired much power to rule and sometimes terrorize others later found out in a hard way that power sometimes means trouble. A married person who invested his or her entire energies on the marriage relationship may crash into disappointment when the heat of romance burns low, passion fails and the relationship disintegrates!

Desire to achieve is not necessarily the problem, but the dangers associated with our ambitions fired-up with high emotional energies -- the "do or die" type of negative energies. When we fail, we crash painfully because we either set our expectations too high or we become too obsessed with our relentless desire to achieve. Unfortunately, instead of living life to the fullest, we allow our selfish desires and goals to control us to the point of disaster!

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My table without me

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Beauty queen Liz Oakley

"Happiness is Success!"

To attain happiness, we must set our contentment or value systems on achievable goals. A person has to determine his or her comfort level based on needs, not wants. Some families do better and are happy with only $20,000 a year income while some families are miserable and unable to make ends meet with $200,000 a year. The issue is not to discount the value of achieving certain goals as much  as "not putting so much emphasis on winning so much." Any time we pull a rope too tight, that rope  eventually breaks -- this is the source of most people's unhappiness. When we become obsessed with either money, power, fame, even relationships -- love, or sex -- these things start to acquire power to control us. Consequently, we become dehumanized by our ferocious desires to achieve selfish goals.

To create our own happiness, we have to surrender our chronic desires for material things, power, fame and money. This doesn't mean we have to give up our spouse to somebody else, become homeless, or give all our money away for charity. However, we should put less importance to selfish ideation, learn to help others and seek for inner peace. In this process, we will learn to achieve spiritual serenity. As a Christian, spiritual serenity gives me the greatest joy of all. Never surrender your happiness into anybody's hand such as in a romantically flaming relationship, or to material things, because these are just ego boosters. No matter our life expectations, true happiness comes from within -- not in the number of books sold!

So, when we have attained contentment, spiritual serenity and the joy in sharing fellowship with others, we have attained happiness, and we are therefore successful. Happiness therefore becomes our success, and the desire to achieve to greater heights becomes less of a painful ordeal because we have already attained inner peace.

Spiritual Awakening

There is a giant spiritual awakening in America today. Why? Because people suddenly realize that despite all the money they have acquired and fame they have attained, severe depression visits them from time to time. Surprise! Surprise! Even celebrities who sometimes want us to believe everything is fine due to public pressure on them to be icons and role models, they too are not immuned to this type of depression. Some of the celebrities have therefore publicly embraced spirituality because it brings them perfect joy and tranquility -- serenity. This type of inner peace can not be purchased with money. We must be careful when in search for spirituality however, it has to be based on accepted religious values, otherwise people may be led astray -- and sometimes to their death.  The purpose of spirituality is to preserve the human soul and body. It was never meant to cause the demise of the body.

The essence of life is not what we derive at others' expense, but for those hearts we are able to touch with our kindness, love and compassion. Success doesn't define a person's happiness-- sometimes achievement may be short lived. When we have attained inner peace and serenity, we have attained the greatest happiness. Therefore, happiness defines our success -- such happiness can never be taken away from us.

This is my level of personal growth at this stage of my life and I just think it's worth the fellowship to share this with all of you.

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