does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Hero’s Journey – Dr. Joan Barice – Advocate for “Love Never Fails”

Imagine being desperately ill but so poor you have to wait for hours, penned up with others like cattle, while you await medical attention. When it is finally your turn, you are treated by a harried physician whose first choice likely would not be employment in such a clinic. It is hard to hold on to hope and dignity under such circumstances. Alas, the poor and the victimized often find themselves in such a predicament.

Dr. Joan Barice found this situation intolerable, though not because she was a patient or one of those harried doctors. She simply felt strongly that treating patients with dignity and respect is conducive to health. She took seriously her motto of “Love Never Fails” and decided to transform one such clinic into one in which patients had specific appointments and also enjoyed treatment by the area's best doctors. This achievement would be remarkable all on its own, but it is only one of many such accomplishments from one of the most amazing women I have ever met.

Service to others through healing and love has been the unifying principle of Dr. Barice's life. As a graduate of Stanford Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, she could have chosen a life of ease. Instead, she has dedicated herself to caring for the poor, the elderly, and those afflicted by addiction and HIV.

Faced with her enthusiastic demeanor, one would not guess that she suffers from chronic, sometimes disabling, pain. Graced by her gentle spirit, one would not know that this intrepid woman has made 250 skydives and survived a plane crash in the arctic wilderness. Always motivated to keep learning, she lived in China for a year, studying qigong and acupuncture.

Just as she has tested the boundaries of her personal life, she has also been on the forefront of advancing the integration of safe and effective alternative healing therapies with those of conventional medicine. She has done this in clinical settings, in the academic and research arenas, as well as with her professional associations. For her accomplishments, she received the Certificate of Merit, the highest honor given by the Florida Medical Association for contributions to the health of the community and physicians.

The list of Dr. Barice’s achievements is indeed extensive. In this post, I highlight only a few. At the clinic mentioned above, Dr. Barice was instrumental not only in recruiting the highest quality doctors but also in offering education for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes management et al.

Another instance where she made a difference in people’s lives, this time across the economic spectrum, was through her role in getting addiction recognized as a disease to be treated in parity with other illnesses. Her successful activism at the state level eventually led to a similar shift at the national level. This has meant, among other things, that people seeking treatment for addiction could be covered by health insurance.

Dr. Barice's own experience with disabling pain and the helplessness it engendered brought home for her the connection between the mind and the body. In Dr. Barice’s words, “A lot of things we don’t know about, but the importance of the mind/body connection is profound. Thinking can make you sick, and thinking can make you well.”

Her personal involvement with chronic pain has led her to test the limits and the possibilities both of mainstream medicine and of the so-called alternative healing therapies. She believes in accessing the best of both approaches to health care. For treatment of her pain, for example, she has undergone surgery but has also used alternative therapies such as acupuncture, essential oils, and nutritional supplements. Today, she lectures to medical students about the integration of mainstream and alternative therapies.

A discussion of Dr. Barice would be incomplete without also touching on another factor she considers significant for health—the spiritual component. Her strong faith is critical in helping her navigate the challenge of chronic pain. In her treatment of others, Dr. Barice, a devout Catholic, takes very seriously Jesus’ assertion, “What you do for the least among you, you do for me.” Nor would the discussion be complete without her insistence on giving credit to the many who helped and mentored her along the way.

I celebrate Dr. Joan Barice for her unflagging dedication to improving the wellbeing of so many in need. I honor her commitment to integrating the best of conventional and alternative therapies. I am pleased that someone of her caliber champions recognition of the role that mind and spirit play in health. For all this, as well as for her unstinting bravery and strength of character, she meets the definition of a hero. For her willingness to journey down paths less traveled in her search for greater truths, she is deserving of mention in a blog which celebrates pilgrim souls.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Human Being Died that Night

Every now and then, someone writes with a heart so open, it is both painful and life affirming. Judy Croome, South African author, has written a post so powerful it deserves wide-spread recognition. Writing poignantly about her post-apartheid nation, Croome bared her soul with candor, regret, and hope. Her post’s power and raw honesty left me speechless. We are honored by Croome’s willingness to open her heart to us. I don’t know if one can assert that South Africa’s particular cauldron of issues is more complex than most. After all, life is in its essence complex. Just its very mystery introduces complexity. Yet, South Africa seems to be a crucible, in the present era, for the challenges humanity faces in defining what is good and what is evil. Here is the link to her post.

A Human Being Died that Night

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Flirtation with Faulkner

I sidled up to Absalom, Faulkner’s giant, brushed up against his shoulders, winked, and said, “Come hither.”

He approached, though his slightly mocking look was anything but encouraging. “I am too deep for you,” his look seemed to imply.

Me, not deep enough? Psh, I’m as deep as they come.

Maybe I said it out loud because he threw up his arms and allowed me to stand before him.

“I’ve heard great things about you,” I said.

He allowed a weak smile, but said nothing.

Then, without any seeming prompt, he started talking.

And talking.

I was beginning to think he would run out of breath. But, no, he kept talking.

Good lord, I thought. This guy can string a sentence for pages.

But, I shrugged it off. The getting to know you process is always fraught. Give him a chance.

And, he kept talking.

At this point, I was beginning to wonder if he thought I was deaf, dumb or mute, and that’s why he went on and on in spirals of time and place that had me gasping as I tried to keep up.

And, he talked.

I started edging away in fitful intervals; fitful, because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. I mean, I had heard so much about this guy!

My smile became pasted on.

It was a tremulous smile, though, borne of doubt about what the right thing to do was. I really had heard great things about this guy.

And, he talked.

I could not decipher whom he was talking about or whether that person was still alive or whether he was reminiscing or … what!

Maybe I was not deep, after all, because I put up my hand and said, “Sorry, I really have to go.”

He smiled that slightly derisive smile of his, which seemed to confirm his first impression of me as someone not of sufficient intellect to appreciate him.

Well, okay. But, life is too short.

I walked away.

Thus ended my flirtation with Faulkner and Absalom; well, Absalom, Absalom, if you want to get technical about it.


Saturday, July 14, 2012


I’ve been on blogging hiatus for a month, not foreseen. It just sort of happened. I continue to check, though not as frequently, the blogs I follow. Despite that, I feel as if I’m letting down the side. I notice, however, that, although some dedicated souls maintain a regular pace of posting, they seem to be the exception. So maybe my slower pace is not unusual. I keep meaning to give my blog the attention it used to receive, but alas one week follows another and – no new post! So this is simply a hello to my blogging friends. I hope life is good, personally and professionally.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Is There a Genre for This?

I have always maintained that my writing is hard to force-fit into a literary genre. Multicultural and literary come about as close as any labels can. My reading tastes are also wide-ranging. Here is what I have been reading in the last month.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, winner of the 1952 National Book Award and a classic ever since. You might find it interesting that President Obama in college read and reread this novel until it was dog-eared. See The Washington Post excerpt from the upcoming David Marannis biography of the President.

Cuentos de Amor de Locura y de Muerte [Stories of Love Madness and Death] a collection by the gifted Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga, who died in 1937.

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, a book of poems about the individuals buried in fictional Spoon River.

Hope of Israel, a fabulous historical novel by Patricia O’Sullivan, “based on the true experience of Jews in Lisbon, Amsterdam and London during the politically and spiritually tumultuous 17th century." [Publishers Weekly]

Inseminating the Elephant, a Pulitzer Prize finalist poetry anthology by Lucia Perillo.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, a surprising page turner of a book that also lets one peek into early U.S. history.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, a psychological novel by the award-winning Japanese writer, Yukio Mishima

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

How would you label my reading tastes?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What I’m Up To

• Playing with my new Kindle Fire. Loving it!

• Preparing so that I can eventually view my own short stories, poetry, et al. published as Kindle Singles.

• Rereading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man to prepare for leading a class discussion. This remarkable, award-winning novel, now 60 years old, still offers up beautiful prose, brilliant insight into human behavior, and mastery of writing craft.

• Rereading Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, also in preparation for the Invisible Man discussion. Ralph Ellison acknowledged the influence of this novella, among others, in writing his own National Book Award novel.

• Enjoying Spring.

• What’s up with you?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What’s in a Name?

Two authors from different cultures ask, “What is in a name?” The Irish poet Eavan Boland and the Puerto Rican playwright/poet Nancy Mercado conclude that the answer is of fundamental importance in defining one’s existence.

In her essay, “Lava Cameo,” Eavan Boland asks, “Was there really no name for my life [as an ordinary woman] in poetry?” Her search for her late grandmother helps Boland validate her “femaleness” in an otherwise largely male Irish literary tradition.

In her concluding essay to the collection What’s in a Nombre? Nancy Mercado states, “Naming is the spiritual act of living beyond the moment, of signifying something beyond the instant ….”

In both instances, each author reclaims the right to name herself and her work apart from the prevailing hegemony of gender and/or culture. In Nancy Mercado’s words, “The act of naming is rebellious; it is the expression of power over a thing or over someone ….”

It is also an affirming act. As Eavan Boland says, “I had written poems. Now I would have to enter them.”

In a perhaps less consequential way, I have renamed this blog. My literary name Judith Mercado now takes precedence over the previous title of Pilgrim Soul. This is a defining act signifying renewed focus on my literary life. I will always be a pilgrim soul, seeking and learning. This blog, however, will now focus primarily on Judith Mercado as a short story author, novelist, poet, and essayist.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Short Story “Orphans And Hoodlums” Is Published!

“Orphans and Hoodlums” is included in phati'tude Literary Magazine’s current issue: WHAT'S IN A NOMBRE? This issue features Pulitzer-prize winners as well as lesser-known writers who explore Latino identity in America.

Their press release states, “WHAT’S IN A NOMBRE? sets out to investigate the diverse cultural identities of writers of Spanish descent by bringing together an amazing range of voices that we felt had been unfairly lumped into the category of “Hispanic” and “Latino.” ¿Qué hay en un nombre? What’s in a name?

¿WHAT’S IN A NOMBRE? celebrates and introduces readers to Latino writers from a U.S. perspective. Featuring a cavalcade of over 117 Latino poets, writers and artists, highlights include Interviews of Esmeralda Santiago, Oscar Hijuelos, Nelly Rosario, Gary Soto, and Junot Diaz; and tributes to Piri Thomas and Louis Reyes Rivera. Short stories by Rosebud Ben-Oni, Angie Cruz, Judith Mercado, Thelma T. Reyna and John Rodriguez. Artwork and photographs by Wanda Benvenutti, George Malave, Kukuli Velarde and more. Includes bilingual works in English and Spanish. The editors are particularly proud of a body of work that explores social protest and exploitation; the migratory experience; self-exploration or self-definition, including the exploration of myths and legends.

By no means is this issue complete, nor is it meant to be, but we have created a collection that includes some of the older, established writers alongside the newer and lesser-known voices that represent the different cultures thriving beneath the umbrella term of “Latino.” The authors here have courageously shared their stories with us through interviews, essays and poetry, where language, culture, history, religion, and gender issues are explored against the cultural backdrop of American culture. This groundbreaking issue is not only a great teaching tool, but it’s also an excellent addition in anyone’s library collection.”

I am proud to have “Orphans and Hoodlums” included in the most recent issue of phati’tude Literary Magazine. Established in 1997, it is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed quarterly magazine published by the Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. (IAAS), an organization which promotes multicultural literature and literacy. It focuses on, but is not exclusively devoted to, the work of writers of African, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Arab and Asian descent in an aim to provide a forum for quality works of diverse voices from around the globe.

The issue may be purchased here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Having a Blast

So I took Anne R. Allen at her word and started taking steps toward e-publishing my short stories. Except that turned out to be a bit more complicated than just uploading one of my files to Amazon.

Okay, Amazon provides a nifty publication called Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing. So I downloaded it.

Turns out it recommends that I convert my Word documents to HTML.

Well, I’m figuring out how to do that. There are even some publications about that on Amazon (yeah, a little bit of money, but hey.)

Then there is cover art. I must be a visual artist manqué because I can’t believe how much fun I’m having conceptualizing what to do. Though I still am not sure how to upload it to Kindle.

Soon come. Someone or something will surely tell me how to do that.

And I remain enthralled with visions of my stories being Kindled.

Yeah, but there are more than a few personal details to resolve.

Those will be hammered out too.

But, by now, I have figured out that doing this is not as easy as adding an attachment to an email.

Never mind. I just postpone the startup date to give me a chance to move up the learning curve. I have even outlined all the steps to address before the target date.

And I’m still excited! Thank you, Anne.

I think.


UPDATE: For a story-length document, using HTML is apparently not absolutely necessary. Uploading a .doc file may suffice.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Variations on a Theme Anthology is Available!

The Literary Lab's Variations on a Theme Anthology includes my short story "The Barcelona Chairs." The anthology is now available on Here is an excerpt from The Literary Lab’s full announcement:

Get it while it's hot! Literally hot! Variations on a Theme has gone live on Amazon.

Sorry, but the anthology is not available for Kindle or any other ebook format. We've decided to take the Kindle version down for Notes From Underground as well. Why? Mainly because the Kindle versions never really sold and it's a lot of work to format those manuscripts just for a few sales. So print only! Makes them more special if you ask me!

And trust me, if you're a fan of The Literary Lab, you want this anthology, and probably all three of them. I won't say why yet, but you do!

Go purchase your copies now. It's a beautiful, exciting, and entertaining anthology. I can't wait to get my final copy!

Also, it should be noted that Notes From Underground has been reformatted. We fixed a name spelling and made the text a bit bigger (it was just a bit small before). It's still the same price as it was before. All three anthologies are $8.56 each. We feel this is a pretty reasonable price for a nice print book.

THANK YOU, EVERYONE, FOR YOUR SUPPORT OF THE LITERARY LAB. None of these anthologies would have been possible without you!

Variations on a Theme is our third anthology. This year, we asked writers to create work inspired by one of two stories: "The Tinderbox," a classic fairy tale, or "The Huntsman," by Anton Chekhov. The result is a wonderful, tight collection of magical stories.

Purchase Variations on a Theme PAPERBACK COPIES through Amazon
$8.56 each.
click here

As for me, I just ordered the anthology and can’t wait to read it. I am sure my story “The Barcelona Chairs” will be in great company.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Are Those Characters Real?

What is it that happens when characters become like real people to a writer? Is it a worrisome sign of psychological disorder?

I don’t know. All I know is that I generally don’t feel that I’m writing effectively until a character starts “talking” to me. I’ll be about to fall asleep, and I’ll “hear” a voice that says, “You forgot to mention how I felt when Agnes died.” “Or Juana eloped.” Or some other character detail which had never occurred to me but which turns out to be critical for understanding my character’s emotional and psychological makeup; if not, his timeline.

Now I could go all spooky on you and talk about how my grandmother was a medium and maybe all I’m doing is channeling dead spirits. Okay, guffaw, all you want. The point is that this is a mysterious process. We are all readers, as well as writers. As readers, some of us develop strong bonds with fictional characters which defy rational explanation. I wonder if that could happen if the author herself had not developed a lifelike bond with her character.

Do any of my fellow writers have this experience?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Today I Purged

Today I purged nearly twenty years of background notes, drafts, and other miscellanea for my unpublished writing. At first, I tried to be highly selective, but faced with leaning piles of files, I became merciless.

It occurred to me as I was shredding that I was releasing early dreams of publishing glory. Of course, my manuscripts in final draft still exist, both in electronic and in paper form. But the fancies I had woven as I wrote my fictional “masterpieces” lay collapsed under mounds of shredded paper.

Ironically, with the advent of electronic media, publishing has never been more accessible. After a modest amount of polishing, I could simply upload all my manuscripts and they would be instantly available to all. And I may still do that. I just do not seem to be moved to do that right now.

Today may, in the end, prove to be inconsequential. Years hence, I may scarcely be moved by the memory of releasing so much of me, as expressed through my writing. I don’t know. I just know that today I purged and while I feel lightened I also feel saddened.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Literary Lab "Variations on a Theme" Anthology Winners!

The Literary Lab just announced the winners to be included in their anticipated anthology, “Variations on a Theme.” My short story “The Barcelona Chairs” is among those chosen for publication.

Participants had been asked to use as inspiration one of two short stories, Chekhov’s “The Huntsman” or Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Tinderbox.” I used Chekhov’s tale of an abandoned wife to inspire me to create a contemporary version of a marriage cleft by abandonment.

I salute the two prize winners, Yat-Yee Chong and Judy Croome. I also congratulate the other authors whose stories will be included in the anthology, currently slated for publication in mid-March. I eagerly anticipate reading their short stories. I am sure my story will be in great company.

The Literary Lab trio of Michelle Davidson Argyle, Davin Malasarn, and Scott G. F. Bailey deserve high praise for sponsoring this anthology. I can only imagine the hard work involved in reading and then selecting winners from among all the worthy entries. As I told them, “Thank you for making me soar.” I thank them for choosing my story and for promoting the art of literary writing. May they reap ample rewards from their efforts.

As soon as publication details emerge, I will share them with you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Auditions and Resilience

Last I checked, I am not an actor. But I feel like one auditioning for a role whenever I submit a short story to a review or a query letter to an agent. There must be common ground here—the hope at submission, the exhilaration of acceptance, the plummet at rejection. That’s not even mentioning how stacked the odds are against admission to the club. Honestly, I have to acknowledge the courage of actors who do this in person. If I had to do that, I might never submit my work.

But submit I do. You should see the size of my Excel worksheet which tracks the history of my submissions over the years. It ain’t small, let’s just say. It might never have reached that size, though, if along the way I had not received acknowledgement that my writing has merit. Twelve of my stories have been published. Two of my novels, though not published, received recognition. Cruel carrot or not, this whets my willingness to keep going.

It may sound cheesy, but I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on something imbued with possibility. It makes other more intractable issues in my life appear less overwhelming. So, in the last two months, I have sent out thirteen stories to roughly sixty literary reviews. I started crafting my query letter and synopsis for my latest completed novel. To date, three of my stories have been accepted for publication. Hope reigns strong that the other stories and my novel will find homes, too.

Here is what I also know about this writing thing. I can’t not write. Writing feels as essential to me as breathing. As for getting my work out into the public arena, I follow the intention of a poem I once wrote.

One thing I do know.
Giving up beforehand means
guaranteed defeat.

So the stories, novels, and poems will continue to emerge from my production line. Their fate in the vast distribution channel of publishing is another thing altogether.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Reminder - What Writers Produce Is Alive

I had fun imagining my stories and novels dancing with the works of Chekhov, King, Lispector, Achebe .... and my smile was huge. I hope this brought a smile to you too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Short Stories and More

So the new year began. I had some time between real life projects, was waiting to hear from my readers about my novel, and could focus on my short stories. I opened up my short story folder, identified which short stories to send out, researched potential literary markets, and started submitting stories. At last count, I have about twenty queries sent. More will be submitted as time etc. permit.

The targeted literary reviews range from brand new to long established. Obviously, the probabilities of acceptance will differ. But, regardless of the publication’s pedigree, it is always uplifting to hear that someone likes what you have written. We'll see what the new year brings. I look forward to finding out.

Sunday, January 1, 2012