Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Her Voice

Women Directors Talk Directing
by Melissa Silverstein

Book Review by Ann Baldwin

Melissa Silverstein is the founder and editor of Women and Hollywood, one of the most respected sites for issues related to women and film. Women and Hollywood educates, advocates, and agitates for gender parity across the entertainment industry. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Athena Film Festival held at Barnard College in New York. She’s on the advisory board of the Women’s Media Center and a member of NY Women in Film and TV. She was the founding project director for The White House Project and Chief of Staff at the Ms. Foundation for Women. She has created social media campaigns and events for a variety of films such as My Week with Marilyn, The Iron Lady, Gloria Steinem: In Her Own Words, Revolutionary Road, Becoming Jane, and The Hours. Her work has been featured on CNN, the BBC as well as in Newsweek, Salon, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, Washington Post, and NY Times among others. Women and Hollywood was named one of the top 100 websites for women by ForbesWoman in 2012 and 2011. In Melissa’s new book, In Her Voice: Women Directors Talk Directing, volume one (Women and Hollywood 2013), She expands your perspective on filmmaking and heightens your awareness of some remarkable filmmakers and intriguing films by interviewing over 40 women directors of features and documentaries from the U.S. and abroad.

You’ll hear a variety of compelling stories not only about these directors, but the characters within their films as well. Many of these directors are also writers, actresses, cinematographers, and/or producers, which adds to their vast array of experience and knowledge. Melissa’s interviews include a brief biography of each director with links to their Imdb page, film website, and movie trailers.

Some of the diverse voices you get to listen to are from directors such as Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Courtney Hunt (Frozen River), Callie Khouri (Mad Money), Roberta Grossman (Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh), Gini Retiker and Abigail Disney (Pray the Devil Back to Hell), Hannah Rothchild (The Jazz Baroness), Katherine Dieckmann (Motherhood), Alison Eastwood (Rails & Ties), Amy Redford (The Guitar), Shana Feste (The Greatest), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me), Lynn Shelton (Humpday), Sally Potter (Rage), Lone Scherfig (An Education), and Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns).

Melissa’s questions are insightful, respectful, and intelligent producing some illuminating, uplifting, empowering, and inspiring answers. In Her Voice is like a breath of fresh air in a healthy, organic garden. I highly recommend for all filmmakers who want to enrich their knowledge about the craft and everyone who wants to learn about the other half of the films being made, so they can explore, experience, and enjoy them.

You can connect with Melissa Silverstein at and purchase a copy of In Her Voice at Amazon and

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles, interviews, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years. You can visit her website at and her blog page at

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

A Path to Success
by Jen Grisanti

Book Review by Ann Baldwin

Jen Grisanti is a highly respected script consultant, public speaker, author, and writing instructor. She started her career as an assistant to Aaron Spelling. Jen climbed the ranks and eventually ran Current Programs at Spelling Television Inc., covering all of Spelling’s shows including Beverly Hills, 90210; Melrose Place; and Charmed. In 2004, Jen was promoted to Vice President of Current Programs at CBS/Paramount where she covered shows including Medium, Numbers, NCIS, 4400, and Girlfriends. She served as a mentor in the CBS Diversity Program, which seeks out and nurtures young writers and directors. In 2008, she launched her own consultancy firm, Jen Grisanti Consultancy, dedicated to helping talented writers break into the industry. She is also a Writing Instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge, taught classes for the Scriptwriters’ Network, The Screenwriting Expo, and The Great American Pitchfest and served on panels for the WGA and Final Draft/The Writer’s Bootcamp. Her books include, Story Line: Finding Gold in Your Life Story (Michael Wiese Productions 2011) and TV Writing Tool Kit: How to Write a Script That Sells. In her new book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path to Success (Divine Arts 2013), Jen uses the elements of story, her profound insights, and simple steps to guide you to an awareness of your passions and strengths, so you can find your niche in life; by aligning your personal and professional self, you can succeed and live a more fulfilled sense of purpose from the inside out.

Life is a series of transformations and we will all experience turning points in the process; these are often called “all is lost” moments in stories when our world gets turned upside-down and where we’re thrown into a dilemma of being forced to decide a new direction to take next. Whether it’s losing a job, the break-up of a relationship, or being displaced from our home, we can either fall victim to the circumstances or rise heroic to overcome the situation.

Jen shows you how to take these turning points and use them as starting points for new and better journeys. You will learn how to face and conquer your turning points, dilemmas, and obstacles, find the motivation to take action, get clarity on and align your internal and external goals (what you want and why you want it), and identify themes in your life that may be holding you back and no longer serve you, so you can move forward and succeed. She uses examples from her own personal and professional experiences as well as from films such as Up in the Air, The Sessions, Crazy Stupid Love, Hope Springs, and The King’s Speech.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life is like a magnifying glass that gives you a clear focus and a compass that keeps you moving in the right direction. I highly recommend for everyone who wants to take charge, control, and command of their life by being an active verses reactive heroine/hero and all writers and storytellers who want to gain a deeper understanding of the elements of story and the true process of character transformation.

You can connect with Jen Grisanti at and purchase a copy of Change Your Story, Change Your Life at Amazon.

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles, interviews, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years. You can visit her website at and her blog page at

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hidden Tools of Comedy

The Serious Business of Being Funny
by Steve Kaplan

Book review by Ann Baldwin

Steve Kaplan is the industry’s most sought-after expert on comedy writing and production, a script consultant, producer, director, author, and teacher. He has taught at UCLA, NYU, Yale and other top universities. In New York he was co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan Punch Line Theatre where he developed writers such as Peter Tolan (Analyze This, Finding Amanda), writer/producer David Crane (Friends, Joey, The Class), writer/producer Tracy Poust (Ugly Betty, Will & Grace), Michael Patrick King (The Comeback, Sex and The City, Will & Grace), Will Scheffer (Big Love), Howard Korder (Lakeview Terrance starring Samuel Jackson), Kenneth Lonergan and Mark O’Donnell (Hairspray starring John Travolta), and Sandra Tsing Loh (Chicken Little). In Los Angeles, he created the HBO New Writers Project and the HBO Workspace, a developmental workshop in Hollywood that introduced and presented performers such as Jack Black and Tenacious D, Kathy Griffin, and Josh Malina. At the Workspace, he was Executive Producer for the award-winning HBO Original Programming documentary Drop Dead Gorgeous. Steve has developed, produced, and directed in regional theaters and Off-Broadway. Steve has been teaching his Comedy Intensive workshops to thousands of students across the globe. In his new book, The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny (Michael Wiese Productions 2013), Steve gets to the heart of our funny bone, so you can give life to your comedies that will leave your audience in stitches.

Through Steve’s abundance of knowledge about and experience working with comedy he’s developed several tools for fixing scripts that aren’t producing enough belly-laughs. While he doesn’t consider his book a ‘how to’ for creating comedic films and T.V. shows based on a specific set of structures to follow, Steve does give you instruments to use to repair parts that aren’t functioning properly; it’s more of a ‘user’s manual’ to show you the mechanics of comedy and how it works. This process allows you the freedom to use your instincts to create and write what’s funny to you.

By understanding the dynamics of what makes us laugh and why we find certain things funny, you can develop better skills for crafting your comedies. Some of the things you’ll learn are the physics of comedy, ‘The Comic Equation,’ the power of the ‘Non-Hero,’ how to apply ‘Metaphorical Relationships’ among your characters, and how to create comic focus using the ‘Straight Line/Wavy Line’ tool. He gives clear, concise examples from films such as Big, Groundhog Day, There’s Something About Mary, Liar Liar, Meet The Parents, Annie Hall, and As Good As It Gets along with T.V. shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Monk, The Odd Couple, and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Steve’s approach is “keep it simple, Silly, and the comedy writes itself.” Clarity served with humor; what better way to learn the Art of Comedy?

To connect with Steve Kaplan, you can visit his website at and purchase a copy of The Hidden Tools of Comedy at Amazon and MWP.

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles, interviews, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years. You can visit her website at and her blog page at

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Original Sins

Trade Secrets of the Femme Fatale
By Kim Krizan

Book Review by Ann Baldwin

Kim Krizan is an Academy Award-nominated writer of the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. She appeared as an actress in the films Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Waking Life. She wrote the critically-acclaimed graphic novel Zombie Tales: 2061. Kim earned a Master’s degree in literature and became an Anais Nin scholar. She teaches creative writing classes for UCLA Extension. In Kim’s new book, Original Sins: Trade Secrets of the Femme Fatale (Los Angeles 2013), she takes you into the mysterious world of one of the oldest and most fascinating archetypes, the Femme Fatale (the dangerous woman); through her humorous perspective, Kim sheds light into every dark corner of these women’s existence from the history pages to the silver screens of Hollywood.

These free-spirited and wildly engaging dames, broads, vixens, seductresses, vamps, tramps, hellcats, bombshells, bad girls, and sirens have graced every culture with their powerful and alluring ways since the dawn of time beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden. They’re the women who break the rules, shatter the glass ceilings, take charge of their lives, live by their own standards, shake-up the status quo, and create their own future.

Original Sins is well-researched and a comprehensive examination of the inner and outer workings of these untamable man-eaters, from what kind of war paint she dons to highlight her captivating features, to the interior design of her lair, to the mode of transportation she sports for her quick get-aways; Kim uncovers their internal desires, motivations, and beliefs, and includes all of their modus operandi, styles, habits, hobbies, and mannerisms.

There are numerous examples, many with stunning photographs, of our ladies-in-question to include: Mamie Van Doren as Eve The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, Lillie Langtry, Theda Bara, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara Gone with the Wind, Gretta Garbo Mata Hari, Julie Newmar as Catwoman Batman, Angie Dickinson The Killers, Anne Bancroft The Graduate, Sharon Stone Basic Instinct, Faye Dunaway Network, Pam Grier Coffy, Michelle Pfeiffer Scarface, Theresa Russell Blackwidow, Joan Collins Dynasty, Ellen Barkin Sea of Love, Kathleen Turner Body Heat, Madonna, Britney Spears and many more.

Don’t fret the small stuff required to pull-off creating the most cunning master-of-disguise for Kim includes checklists for every occasion. By the time you’re through reading Original Sins, Kim will have you fully armed with everything you need to design the most intriguing Femme Fatale (and leave you in stitches to boot). I highly recommend for all writers interested in giving birth to female characters who are alluring, dangerous, mysterious, and unforgettable or anyone just plain interested in what makes these broads so very bold, daring, and intoxicating.

You can connect with Kim Krizan at and purchase a copy of Original Sins: Trade Secrets of the Femme Fatale at Amazon

Ann Baldwin is a screenwriter (The Power of Dreams, Scent of a Trail, Dream Catcher) with several spec scripts in development. She reviews books on screenwriting and filmmaking, writes articles, interviews, and has several books (fiction & non-fiction) in-progress. Prior to launching her writing career, she was a special event coordinator and manager in the hospitality and entertainment industries for over 25 years.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Onward & Upward

Reflections of a Joyful Life
By Michael Wiese

Book Review by Ann Baldwin
Michael Wiese is a producer, director, author, and publisher with over 35 years of experience in film, television, pay TV, and home video. After producing the highly popular Hardware Wars (a Star Wars parody), Michael was an entertainment executive with Showtime and later Vice President of Vestron Video where he developed, produced, and/or acquired over 300 programs which earned over $100 million wholesale revenues. He was responsible for creating video lines for National Geographic, Smithsonian, NOVA, Audubon, and PBS. He has presented filmmaking seminars for Kodak (at the Cannes Film Festival), The AFI, The International Film & TV workshops and many others throughout the world. Michaels films include Dolphin Adventures, The Beach Boys: An American Band, Diet for a New America, The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas: A Pilgrimage to Oracle Lake (Tibet), The Shaman and Ayahuasca: Journeys to Sacred Realms (Peru), and Talking with Spirits: Journeys into Balinese Spirit World (Bali). He has written eight film books to include Film & Video Budgets and The Independent Film & Videomaker’s Guide. Today, he oversees Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) which publishes a line of over 150 professional filmmaking books that are used in the major motion picture studios and in over 700 film courses throughout the world; along with, his newest imprint, Divine Arts Media. In Michael’s new book, Onward & Upward: Reflections of a Joyful Life (Michael Wiese Productions 2013), he takes you on an incredible journey and adventurous ride through the 65 years of his life as a filmmaker and spiritual seeker.

From his hometown of Champaign, Illinois to San Francisco, Japan, Los Angeles, Bali, India, Africa, Peru, Bahamas, New York, and Europe, Michael weaves hundreds of short stories from his life-travels inward and abroad into one of the most colorful tapestries of the human experience. His filmmaking and spiritual quest is told with candor, humor, passion, and enlightenment.

The people he met, worked with, and/or became friends with came from interesting and diverse backgrounds such as inventor Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller, actress Shirley MacLaine, est founder Werner Erhard, the late film critic Roger Ebert, Peruvian curandero Don Jose Campos, musicians from The Beach Boys, the late Bali Spiritual Master Dewa Nyoman Batuan, comedians Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, and Billy Crystal, mythologist Joseph Campbell, attorney Melvin Belli, and holistic physician Deepak Chopra to name a few.

His curious, brave, creative, and humorous soul, lead him to try a vast array of new experiences and experiments such as trying ayahuasca with a shaman in Peru, swimming with wild dolphins in the Bahamas, playing in a rock band, hitchhiking through Kenya, pitching one of his films to Francis Ford Coppola by having it snuck into his home and placed on his bed, a brief swim in the Ganges river in India, and climbing high into the Himalayas in Tibet to film The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas.

Onward & Upward is, by far, one of the most intriguing stories I’ve read; I couldn’t put it down and highly recommend it.          

To connect with Michael Wiese you can visit his website at and purchase a copy of Onward & Upward at Amazon and MWP.


Friday, April 26, 2013

A Vivid Sense of Spirit

An Interview with Shelley Duffy
by Ann Baldwin

Shelley Duffy is a highly-respected and world-renowned psychic, medium, animal communicator, and spiritual counselor. Shelley has experienced reoccurring psychic events and visitations from the spirit world since the age of five. As her awareness expanded, she discovered that she was a natural born psychic and clairvoyant. To learn how to develop and control her gifts, she began to study with well-known professionals in the field such as English medium, Peter Close, Spiritualist medium and Minister, Ethel Rowe, Registered Lily Dale medium from England, Rose Clifford, and many others throughout the United States and England. She’s been doing professional readings for over 15 years now, both in-person and over the phone. She served on the Board of Directors for the oldest and largest metaphysical foundation in Southern CA for 6 years and took part in a popular Southern CA paranormal research team for many years. She is a regular guest on James Van Praagh’s website, where she is also listed as a recommended psychic, medium, and animal communicator. She was recently a guest on Academy Award-winning actress, Shirley MacLaine’s, Independent Expression Radio. Shelley is also one of the featured psychics in the Special Collector’s Edition DVD of the film, Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Shelley speak to an audience about Spirit Guides and she asked the audience, “If you had a good friend that stood right beside you and you NEVER spoke to them, what kind of a relationship would you have?” She paused, and then said, “Well, you wouldn’t have much of one.” The best relationships are those with open lines of communication. Some of the closest friends we’ll ever have are with us twenty-four/seven; they are our Spirit Guides and all we have to do is acknowledge them and begin the conversation.

Ann: When you communicate with spirits, how do you receive their information? Do you see an image of them and/or hear their voice?

Shelley: Really good question.
When I receive information from spirits it comes in different ways. Usually what happens first is I will feel the presence of someone. Going with that feeling I can usually sense if it is male or female. If you stop to think about it, everyone that you know has a different feeling about them. For instance your mom feels different than your dad, your siblings have a different feel, and even identical twins have a different feel about them. Also, each of your animal family members has a different feel. Mediums are usually very in tune with feelings or how someone feels. We call that clairsentience or clear feeling. Clairsentience can also go into actually feeling in the physical body how the spirit physically felt. So any kind of physical ailment or pain can be projected and I will actually feel it in my body, but only for a few minutes until the information is communicated and understood.

Next I will get an image in my mind. Sometimes it is clear and in color and sometimes it looks like just an outline. Usually if the spirit wants me to see a specific physical characteristic they will show me that clearly. Such as hair color or no hair, glasses, body shape or build, etc. We call that clairvoyance or clear vision. I have also seen spirits or apparitions outside of the mind with my actual eyes but for readings it is almost always in the minds eye.

And then the words come. They are words that form in the mind, and they seem to be heard even though they are not an audible voice outside of the head. They usually come in blocks of thought, not one word at a time like we speak; however, sometimes it is just one word that is conveyed. Every once in awhile I will hear an audible voice outside of the head, but it is usually when I am relaxed and headed for sleep. We call this clairaudience or clear hearing.

So, this is what usually takes place; however, it is not set in stone. There maybe some days when I am just not hearing well and they have been known to spell the words visually for me or other days when I do not see anyone, but it is all words and conversations. It is not an exact science, so a lot of it depends on me and how I am feeling that day and also the spirits and how good at communicating they are. The client is also really important and how we all blend together.

Ann: When you're reading someone who's alive, do you receive information about them from their spirit (soul) or other spirits who are in the spirit world (non-physical plane) and how can you tell the difference?

Shelley: Well, when I am reading someone, two things are happening; I am reading or sensing the person's energy on my own using my own psychic senses and I am also getting information from spirits. It is mostly my own spirit guides who relay the information to me. My spirit guides know me best and what I am capable of seeing, hearing and feeling at that particular time. Sometimes a loved one of the person I am reading will speak or communicate directly to me. How I tell the difference between them is that my spirit guides feel familiar to me and the other spirits are like a stranger speaking to me. Also, I do not see my spirit guides while giving readings, but I do see and/or feel the other spirits that are present; so, I can tell or even see when they speak up. As for the person that I am reading, I would not say that I am speaking to their soul; however, their spirit is always present because we are all spirits in or connected to a physical body. So, anytime you communicate with someone you are speaking to a blending of their physical and spiritual self.

Ann: What are some of the best ways for other people to connect with their spirit guides? What methods or exercises do you teach to your students?

Shelley: Alright, what I think comes first in the desire to connect with your spirit guides is really very simple. First, just accept the fact that they are actually there, that gets you into the right mental place, and then begin to dialogue with them as if they were a friend that was always right by your side. You can speak to them out loud or in your head and you can talk about anything and everything. I like to think of it as strengthening the spiritual telephone cord. The more you do that the stronger and more effective the cord becomes. You might feel silly at first, like you are talking to yourself; but, I assure you, they can hear you and will answer or comment.

The next processes or exercises will help develop your ability to actually hear the answers or comments. It is really important in spirit communication to raise and lighten your vibration. To do that meditation is usually necessary and always beneficial. There are many good meditations out there and you should probably experiment with different types. Some people benefit greatly from guided meditations and some people have a really hard time following someone's instructions. Some people do better sitting in the silence, perhaps with some new age or moving music in the background. Some people meditate better in the morning and some at night.

The only type of guided meditation that I say is an absolute must is a good chakra meditation. Everyone should have a good knowledge of the chakras and meditating on them at least once a week, if not more, will really get your psychic centers open and working. There are some good chakra meditations out there and finding one that works for you is important. However, once you have the meditation memorized, you really do not need to keep listening, unless you want to, you can just run though it yourself.

Ann: What is the difference, if any, in communicating with and/or reading animals?

Shelley: Well, I do not think there is any difference in the process of connecting, communicating, or receiving information. It does not feel or seem any different to me. I think that all psychic mediums could read for animals if they wanted to; but, I do believe having a connection and kinship to animals is a must.

Although the process for me is the same, animal readings are very different as far as content. Animals are not as complicated as humans; we humans have so many layers to us and so many blocks and animals have none. What you see is what you get. They are in a sense like small children in the fact that they are very simple in their wants and needs. They talk only about what they want to talk about, which is most of the time, what and who they like along with what and who they do not like.

Animals are always in the present moment, never looking back at the past, never holding grudges. For domesticated animals that have experienced perhaps different homes, they are focused on the home they are in and very rarely have memories of homes from the past, unless it was a recent transition. They do grieve for the loss of someone or another animal, but usually they put that behind them after a certain amount of time and get on with it.

Also, animals do not have a big hang up about death, like people do. They seem to have an inner knowing that they will go on and return one day to another life experience. The circle of life is ingrained in them.

Because they are so open, doing readings for animals is actually very uplifting and great fun.

Ann: What can you tell us about animal's intuition? Do you believe some animals are more intuitive than others, just like humans?

Shelley: I believe and know that all animals are psychic, just like all humans are, but animals use it more and do not suppress it the way humans do. The psychic sense is really just the sixth sense, just like any other of our senses. Humans, over time, have learned to suppress that sense for various reasons. Animals do not have any reason to suppress any of their senses and their natural instincts would dictate that it would not be wise to do so.
I would think that, yes, some animals might be more psychic sensing than others, just like some animals are good hunters and some are good parents and some are alpha leaders and some just are not. They have their specific skills that they are good at and their weaknesses. They are individuals, just like we all are. Many people feel that cats are very psychic, but I have had dogs that are just as psychic.

Also, animals seem to sense and see spirits as well as nature spirits. Very often you will see your cat and dog following something with their eyes, looking intensely at something that no one else can see; sometimes, they will even whine or bark at it. I always suggest to people, “If you’re planning on moving to a new home, bring your dog over, before you make the deal. If your dog does not like the place and whines or even seems frightened there, do not take the home. Your dog is sensing and possibly seeing a negative energy there. Trust that!”

Ann: What is the difference between human, animal, and nature spirits and do humans receive spirit guidance from all three?

Shelley: Well, of course I do not have all of the answers from this limited earth life perspective, but this is how I perceive the answer to your question.

Humans and animals have different spirits and souls. They do not feel the same.
Some people ask if animals have souls because many organized religions would have us believe that we are the only beings that do. Of course animals absolutely have souls and you can see their soul when you look into their eyes. Having many animals in my home, I tend to attract animal spirits; I think that they are just transitioning out of their earth life. I have seen dogs in my home who were not ever mine. I have even seen small animals such as rats and birds come through the house on their way to, what I like to call, Heaven.
Usually they are there for a day or two and then they are gone. When I do readings, many times companion/family member animals come through for the client. Usually, they are with other human loved ones or even with other animals from the family who are in spirit. So, animals most definitely exist beyond the physical and they seem to exist in the very same spiritual realms as we do. I have not found in my experience that we reincarnate into animals or that they reincarnate into human form.

Nature spirits are a whole other type of being. I have seen them since childhood. They were probably attracted by all of the animals in my home. They seem to be shy, but they do like to come around and investigate homes with beautiful gardens and animals and even children. Of course, they mostly reside in areas of nature, such as forests, meadows, and jungles.

When I see them, they are usually little white sparkle lights with color in them. The colors can be different. I have seen mostly blue, green, and red. If they want to, they will show themselves by materializing in more of a form, which for me looks exactly like you would think a fairy would look, except that the outline is a hazy white. So, there is not a lot of detail. I have come to believe that they are actually from another dimension and they go back and forth at will. Sometimes, they will super-impose themselves on to a plant or most noticeably a tree. Sometimes, when you look at a tree, you will see a face or faces in there. Those are the nature spirits of the tree or the surrounding area, showing themselves to you.

Yes, all three of these types of spirits can help us if they want to, if you ask.
Many different cultures from around the world and even some religions have used or asked animal spirits to help them achieve some goal. Sometimes, these animal spirit guides are referred to as animal totems. Nature spirits like to help with plants and gardens and even with your animals in the home.

Ann: I've noticed in my own life, when I start to experience synchronicities, that it feels like a confirmation that I'm on the right trail or path. It's like following the, often silent and/or subtle, signs, messages, guide posts, or clues along life's journey. Everything feels as though it's aligned, connected, and in-sync, just the way it's supposed to be; yet, so many people still call it coincidence, when these experiences or events happen. What is your knowledge and understanding of and/or experience with synchronicities and are they messages from our spirit guides?

Shelley: This is a really good question for our times, because everyone seems to be noticing and talking about synchronicities. The reason people are noticing them more is because the vibration of the planet is speeding up and time is speeding up; therefore, the synchronicities are coming in faster.

There are two things going on here:
Yes, the spiritual realms, our spirit guides, our loved ones, Angels, or a higher power ie: God/Goddess can communicate and help us through synchronicities. I like to think of these "coincidences" as bread crumbs on the path of life leading you until you get to the destination. When you want and ask for something and the synchronicities start lining up, you need to move in that direction. It is also a sign that you are getting closer to what you are seeking. When you follow, investigate, and act on the synchronicities, more will come.

This brings me to another and different energy play that is going on here. It is most important to know that your thoughts are very real and they have a magnetic quality to them. Since the vibration of the planet is moving faster, what you are thinking about the most you will see all around you in your environment. If you are thinking about something, obsessing, or talking about it, you will notice words, pictures, and similar stories all around you that are a match; it’s an indication of your most dominate thoughts at the moment. We often think of this as a "coincidence”, but I assure you it is not. Very often those thoughts are negative, such as heartache, anger, health issues, etc. So we need to be aware and be very careful and mindful of our thoughts.

And along those lines:
We are now in an energy place where karma is coming in faster as well. What may, in the past, have taken a lifetime or two to come back around is now happening very quickly, sometimes, almost instantly. So, treat others how you would like to be treated, be kind in your thoughts and deeds, because, "what goes around comes around" has never been more noticeable.

Ann: How can you tell the difference between your own thoughts and psychically picking-up on other people's thoughts? I’ve read that this is a challenge sometimes for people who are at the beginning stages/levels of learning to tune-into their intuition, especially because negative energy is much easier to pick-up on.

Shelley: In my own experience, I do not pick up on people's actual thoughts like a mind reader might do; but, I do pick up on energy and how a person is feeling. I do think that people's thoughts are private and so I do not even try to go there. However, having said that, to "feel" how someone is feeling is obviously a very good indication of what they are thinking.

When I was younger, I did not like being in crowds for this reason. And, you are right; you usually do pick up on the negative energy in the room rather than the positive. Negative feelings are strong because people tend to repeat those thoughts in their minds, over and over, and they are stressed because of them. Also, if a person is feeling illness or pain, I sometimes will feel that as well. Many people are psychically sensitive to others. So, one of the first things you should learn in any psychic development class are ways to psychically protect yourself from other people's thoughts and feelings. I have learned to tune out when I am not working. Not that I do not relax sometimes with friends and family and start to pick up on things, especially if someone asks me a question, but for the most part I can go into crowded places now and be just fine. I have learned to turn on and off.

It is tough to tell when it is not really you who is feeling that way. It is a subtle exchange and many people just think it is them. I think the best way to keep that from happening is to learn some psychic protection techniques, practice them daily, and see if you notice a difference. Also, pay attention to how you are feeling right before you go to interact with others. If you start to feel very different or negative, take a look around and see if you can tell who it is coming from. You might just try sending them some love and light filled energy and see if they and you feel differently.

Ann: Are children more open to seeing and hearing their spirit guides?

Shelley: I think that most children are more open to psychic and spiritual experiences than adults are. When we are born into this earth life, we are actually closer energetically to our spiritual home than we are to our new human existence. So, many children will not only see their spirit guides, but also Angels, nature spirits, and family in spirit, including animals that died before they were born. As time goes on and the heavy vibration of the planet starts to set in, sometimes the connection to the spiritual realms shuts down. Of course the parents can influence the closing down as well, if they discourage their child’s psychic adventures. The adult psychic medium has a nervous system that vibrates very quickly. Therefore, many psychic children who keep their psychic abilities as they get older have some sort of obvious nervous system over stimulation. They could be very nervous children, have a hard time sitting still or focusing, or also have dyslexia or other types of learning disabilities.

Ann:  Is it easier for our spirit guides to communicate information to us through our sleeping dreams verses being awake?

Shelley: The answer to this question is that it all depends on the individual. Many people get information and messages from their spirit guides as well as loved ones in spirit when they are sleeping, through the dream state. Some people can be easier to communicate with then, because they are relaxed and their spirit has let go, somewhat, of their earthly physical life. Some people actually astral travel quite frequently when they are sleeping. What makes it sometimes more difficult to understand the messages though, is the human brain. The brain will often interfere with the information that is being given or visitation from a loved one that is taking place, because it does not understand what is happening and it may actually throw some fear into it or create some strange scenarios to try and explain to its self what is happening.

For me, it is easier for them to communicate with me while I am awake. Although I have had some prophetic dreams and some very interesting and heart warming visitations, most of my information comes to me in the waking state. It really depends on how developed the person's spiritual senses are. Meditation is key in developing those skills and you can also receive much information while in meditation as well.

Ann: Do you have any current or future projects that you can share
with us that we can look forward to?

Shelley: At the moment, besides my regular schedule of phone readings, I am working on some future classes and workshops for Las Vegas and Southern California. I am also working on the completion of my first of two books that I have in the works.

Ann: Thank you, Shelley, for taking the time to interview with me and for sharing your incredibly insightful knowledge and experiences. It has been a real pleasure talking with you.

Shelley: Thank you so much, Ann. I thoroughly enjoyed your thought-provoking questions.

To learn more about Shelley Duffy, you can visit her website at

Photo Credit: Alan Mercer Photography