spent many years in New York City as a literary agent and as a
television producer. Even before that I lived my life as if I
were an adventurer Ė this was in spite of everyone telling me to
settle down and get a 9-5 job. And I had many, many jobs. Iíve
been telling stories about my experiences such as crashing in a
small plane in the Grand Canyon, and stories about these amazing
characters I met over the years in my business. Often these
experiences changed my life dramatically, sometimes to the
extreme, and sometimes change came from chance encounters.
Lately Iíve been encouraged to write them down. I love what I
do, am blessed to have been so lucky to see the world, and have
such wonderful, loving people in my life.
I hope you
enjoy these stories.
George Ritchie passed away October 29, 2007
I had an
inordinate, unusual fear of snakes, a phobia really. When Mom
was pregnant with me, she, Dad and Dadís younger brother Berkley
were going for a walk. Berkley saw a snake in the lane and was
afraid so my Dad rushed over to kill it with a hoe he happened
to be walking with. It was a poisonous moccasin snake. He killed
it and when he went to pitch it out of the lane, it wrapped
around the hoe and it landed on Mom. Wrapping itself tightly
around her neck. Mom let out a blood curdling scream. Dad rushed
to get it off of her. Everyone thought that was why I was so
afraid of snakes.
As a child
growing up on a farm with many creeks, springs, ponds and a
river there was an abundance of snakes. It seemed to me they
were everywhere. And I kept an eye out for them. I was on hyper
alert for snakes for most of my life.
course of things, I married, had children, moved to the suburbs
and continued my vigilance for snakes. Wherever I was or
whenever I got in the car, I scanned to make sure it was free of
snakes. It was a totally unconscious pattern. Wherever I went, I
first scanned for snakes. My husband completely understood about
my fear and when Iíd have a nightmare heíd look under the bed or
clear out the closet to reassure me that the house was free of
snakes. Dreams like that didnít happen often but it was one
thing I could count on from him Ė a total understanding of that
intense fear of snakes that Iíd endured all my life.
Also in the
course of life, 12 years on, we got a divorce. After a brief
meeting with him one afternoon to discuss the children, I
returned to a friendís house for dinner. She hadnít arrived so I
laid on her sofa to rest and went into a deep meditative state.
I wondered aloud the connection from past lives that my husband
and I might have had and what they meant to us now.
altered state I had a vision: a scene unfolded in front of me,
like a big television screen. In one scene I was on a big barge
floating down a river, dressed in a ceremonial, brocaded gown,
one of many women similarly dressed. I knew that we were Asian,
maybe from Siam and my husband was then in the royal family. His
mother was at his knee attending his every need. We, the ladies
of the court, were ignored. I was sad, bored and leaning against
a pole. I had my hand in the water. I watched as a snake swam up
to it, bit me and I saw myself die.
scene: I am a small black baby and in the wilds of Africa,
scared, crying, sitting in the dirt. A snake is coming towards
me and Iím looking at it fearful. I say, in my mind, if you bite
me Iíll be forever afraid of snakes. As it bit me, a man was
running towards me picking me up. It was my husband in the body
of an almost naked black man.
scene was rolled by but, for some unknown reason, Iíve forgotten
what it was, or blocked it out more likely.
I was on the
search for truth, enlightenment, and love but mostly for
understanding and forgiveness. I'd been to mainstream churches,
charismatic churches, one Catholic priest invited me to "not
come back" because he said I was disruptive, (I kept asking, do
you really think this is what Jesus would say? when they were so
judgmental of others not in their faith). I took yoga and that
was spirituality uplifting as well as physically challenging,
but I wanted something deeper. I wanted to know the real truth.
Who was I? Where did I come from? And why wasnít my
life working? Enter Dr. George Ritchie.
Through meeting Dr. Ritchie and listening to his story of dying
and meeting Jesus, I learned
about myself. My life developed a clarity that it'd not had
before, a focus, and meaning. What I wanted was to be closer to
Jesus, the Christ. I realized that everything else that had
in my life was just bringing me to that understanding. But I was
still afraid of snakes.
Dr. Ritchie was a medical doctor and had gone back to the
University of Virginia Medical School to become a psychiatrist.
He said people that were coming to his office had a sickness of
the spirit not of the body and he wanted to be able to help them
in a deeper way. He organized summer camps for families high up
in the mountains of Virginia. It was also an intense healing
experience - if you were up to it.
I took my kids. It was good for us. I think we attended three
years in a row. It was heavy with psychological counseling,
spiritual lessons, and nature walks.
Late one night I was leaving my cabin, which was basically a
screened in porch with bunk beds, to go to the bathroom. I
opened the cabin door and surprised a big snake. It lunged up at
me and I turned so quickly that my feet didn't move, but my body
fell forward, full weight onto the ground as I let out a blood
curdling scream. Everyone came running. I calmed down,
eventually, and finally went to bed.
The next morning, Dr. Ritchie found me and said let's go for a
walk. Oh, no, I thought-another man telling me that snakes were
more afraid of me, than I of them and that I'd scared it too.
Snakes are God's little creatures too. Yeah. Yeah. I'd heard all
of these explanations and more.
We start down the path towards the creek. Along the way, yes,
Dr. Ritchie is saying that they are God's creatures and that you
scared him/her too, but he takes my hand and is holding it
tight, so tight that I cease to listen to him as I'm
concentrating on my hand. Then he takes my other hand. Ummm, I'm
wondering what is going on? We are standing together and he
turns and says, "Look at me." I do. He is telling me about fear,
anxiety and how we use symbols for these things. He says you
have huge amounts of both so you have a huge snake/fear thing
going. Then he says look down at the ground. I am surrounded by
snakes. They are crawling everywhere. Big snakes, baby snakes,
green ones, black ones, all kinds of snakes. If I could've
levitated I would've. No wonder he's holding me so tight, he
knows I want to run, run like the wind away from these snakes
like I've done all my life in my dreams. And a few times in real
I trust Dr. Ritchie so completely that I donít even cry or
scream or anything. I look down and I see that they're -
relatively - safe looking, calm, not trying to bite me, not
threatening me in any way, and just going about their business
probably wondering why Dr. Ritchie called them all together.
And then I have the light - you know that awakening that changes
the structure of everything you thought you knew. I have an
epiphany that it is my fear within me that I've projected
outwards into the form of a snake probably using the fear of
Mom's experience when I was in the womb but
that it really has nothing at all to do with the actual snake
animal. It is me, all me, internalizing a super anxiety that has
made me hyper vigilant for my entire life.
And like that I let go of my fear of snakes. I am okay. I
haven't said anything but George feels me release the fear and
he lets my hands go. We have a laugh. The snakes crawl off; I
George could do these things.
I met George
Ritchie through a church group and we became fast friends. He
wrote two books about his experiences, My Life After Dying:
Becoming Alive to Universal Love and Ordered to Return;
My Life After Dying. Elizabeth Sherrill co-wrote his first
book, Return from Tomorrow.
From the book cover of Return from Tomorrow:
At the age of twenty, George Ritchie died in an Army hospital.
Nine minutes later, he returned to life. What happened to him
during those minutes was so compelling that it changed his life
forever. In Return from Tomorrow, Ritchie tells of his
transforming encounter with the Son of God, who led him to
encounters with other nonphysical beings at the very doorway of
eternity. Ritchieís extraordinary experience not only altered
his view of eternity, but it has also altered the lives of
hundreds of thousands of readers. One of the most startling and
hopeful descriptions of the realm beyond, this classic will
inspire readers from all walks of life.
George G. Ritchie has served as president of the Richmond
Academy of General Practice; chairman of the Department of
Psychiatry of Towers Hospital; and founder and president of the
Universal Youth Corps, Inc. He lived in Virginia.
August 1, 2007
May I attended an author event at the Brunswick Library in
Lawrenceville, Virginia and met the most amazing woman. Sylvia
Clute. I was wandering around and her energy just drew me.
Somehow I knew that she had something to say that I wanted to
hear. She is a lawyer and studies the Course in Miracles and has
written a fascinating novel.
About her novel: Destiny Unveiled unveils Seven
Spiritual Principles for Governing a People. The accomplished
attorney Christi Daniel desperately searches for better answers
to our legal, governmental, and political systems. Her mentor
through the process is Founding Father George Washington. He
reveals a world in which harmony, balance and unity can save us
Sylvia takes the reader on a journey from the voice of fear to
the voice of love. She spoke to us at the Dairy Barn on June
16th. The title of her talk was Love as a Political
Philosophy for the 21st Century. She outlined the Seven
Spiritual Principles and presented us with a unified approach to
law, government and social order based on the distinctions
between love and fear, as each defines a distinct worldview. She
was most inspiring and awesomely brilliant.
Sylvia is a trial attorney in private practice in Richmond, VA.
She holds an MA in Public Administration from the Kennedy School
of Government at Harvard University, a Juris Doctor from Boston
University School of Law, an MA in Public Administration from
the University of California at Berkeley, and a BA in Political
Science from the University of Colorado. She also serves as
executive director of Meta United and president and CEO of
Founders Press, Ltd.
|Sylvia Clute and Sandra
Martin photo from Dairy Barn Event June 16, 2007
||Attendees arriving for Sylvia Cluteís
June 16th 2007
Mel Gibson and being Star Struck
I once had a relationship with Mel Gibson. Actually it was with
Mel Gibsonís company, ICON Productions. ICON was interested in
many of the books Iíd agented and offered me a Ďhousekeeping
dealí which in Hollywood means you get an office, a desk,
someone to answer your phone and access to their development
people, but no money. At least that was my deal.
Mel was energetic, fun and full of curiosity. I liked him as a
person and we talked about conspiracies, children, movies and
what my latest conspiracy books concerned. He had this odd habit
of defacing his posters in the office. The halls were lined with
posters from his movies and on each one he had colored in a
black eye, or a funny mustache, or blackened his teeth on every
One day he came in to the lobby and he was nervous, moving about
from sofa to chair to walking around until someone asked him
what was wrong. He said, ďIím trying to quit smoking again. This
morning Iíve been hypnotized; I have a patch on, and Iím chewing
nicorette gum. Iím wired man! And I am still craving a
cigarette.Ē He just couldnít give that evil cigarette up.
He was always nice and easy and I had never had that star-struck
experience. I knew a lot of movie stars by then and they were
just like everybody else, it seemed to me.
One day I was working in my office and trying to focus on
talking with a publisher back in New York because we were having
a big problem with an author. Someone kept coming in my office,
my back was to the door, and finally I just turned my face to
the corner so I could concentrate and ignore whoever was trying
to get my attention. Iím done and putting the phone down when I
turn around and Mel was kneeling beside my desk writing me a
note. He looked up with those blue eyes and, oh my God I thought
Iím here with an unbelievably famous, unbelievably handsome,
make that gorgeous movie star. And I just stared. I had been
star struck. He immediately recognized the look and jumped up
and was out of the office in an instant.
Thankfully I got my composure back the next day.
An Alien experience in a Japanese restaurant
In my years as literary agent I met all kinds of UFO types;
investigators, experiencers, Roswell devotees, abductees,
fiction writers and some truly strange people. Iíd receive
proposals about how the aliens were the good guys, the bad guys,
they were just watching us and meant us no harm, had seeded the
planet, were coming back and weíd better be ready, they were
keeping us from destroying ourselves, strange and very strange
encounters, and many more. One of the more intriguing came from
a beautiful LA woman who said sheíd had an experience with a
reptilian alien. She had a co-writer who was in love with her
and had written her book proposal and then her book until he
finally realized that she didnít feel the same about him and
that ended that. Iíd take her to lunch and/or dinner whenever I
was in LA.
At a Japanese restaurant up in the Hollywood Hills, right above
the Magic Castle, we met to have dinner. She was talking about
her job. She was a jazz singer but also did impersonations of
Marilyn Monroe for parties. She was talented and had a gift for
singing. She was eating sashimi and while she was talking and I
was listening, in an instant, a fleeting moment I saw her as a
reptilian alien. Still beautiful but sleek, bright and with
light green scales. I took a quick breath, she asked if I was
okay and I said too much wasabe.
June 3, 2007
Lisa and I returned last night around 2 AM from NYC and our
world-wind tour of the BEA (Booksellers convention). We returned
with 25 canvas bags (my fav) and lots of new books (advanced
reading copies) plus I got photos taken with a few of the
authorís that were signing and selling their books. Lisa had
meetings every half hour with editors/publishers and new
contacts. We arrived bright and early, ready to go at 9 AM after
spending the night with Claudia Trivelas, an old friend of 20
How I met Claudia: She and her husband (at the time) Peter
attended the first Shirley MacLaine seminar that took place in
Va. Beach sort of semi-sponsored by the ARE and held at the
Cavalier Hotel. Peter was the camera man for Paul Brubaker. They
both worked at NBC in NYCís Rockefeller Plaza at the time. Peter
as head of editing all programming for NBC shot in the New York
NBC Studios. Paul was a producer for The Today Show. Claudia and
Peter have divorced but are still very close and have many
similar interests. I remember she said that they met in Paris at
a TM meditation training seminar. I thought that was so
Somehow over that short weekend we bonded in Va. Beach and when
I first moved to NYC I slept in her sonís bed. Jonathan was 8 at
the time and had airplanes on sheets and stars on his ceiling.
Jonathan gets married this June 23rd. How time flies. But it was
a perfect beginning for a novice in the strange land of NYCity
where I knew not one person except for their warm and loving
family. Claudia is thoughtful, mother-like in concern for your
comfortĖemotionally/spiritually and physically, nurturing to
everyone and has a heart of gold. I love her so much.
After parking across the street from the Javittís Center ($50.00
for the day and a good deal it was) Lisa and I went directly to
a booth downstairs, in the childrenís books department, called
Starlines. This man publishes calendars specifically for your
astrology sign. I wanted Scorpio and Lisa wanted Pisces. We
talked for a minute and in that minute he was pitching Lisa a
book that he had written Ďsimilar to The Secret.í Lisa was so
sweet she gave him her card and we moved along. The next booth
we stopped at, same thing, a publisher pitching his book idea,
this time it was his wifeís childrenís book. Lisa sweetly wished
his wife the best of luck with her book since we know children
book publishing is the hardest to break into.
Lisa went on her way to her appointments and I walked around. I
gathered these great canvas bags that most publishers give out.
They are perfect for a book addict because they are sturdy and
they have publisherís names on them that say; ĎIím with the
publishing business.í Nice.
1 June 2007
Tibetan meditation experience
As a young, married suburban woman in Richmond Virginia, I was in a
spiritual quandary and on such an intense spiritual search that I tried
just about anything. I was desperate to discover what life was about, what
it meant, who I "really" was and why I was here. I was in my early 20s
with two children; a daughter of four and a son of eight months. Some how
I knew that this current me wasn't all that I could be. I investigated all
the mainstream religions, attended weekly prayer groups, and I went to
sorts of alternative thought systems, from Theosophy to Edgar Cayce Search
for God Study Groups. After all it was the 60s and even though I was a
suburban mom, married to an accountant I wasn't totally unaware of the
vast changes going on in the world.
One of the things I did was take yoga classes. The classes were taught
in a townhouse a few blocks off the campus of the Virginia Commonwealth
University (VCU) by an English professor. Marcia was an extremely
beautiful, dark eyed, statuesque brunette. She had a strong physical
presence, but a breathy Marilyn Monroe come-hither voice. Her voice was
always a surprise. It could have been the spiritual manifestation of
opposites. After teaching all day, being in charge, the soul of power, at
night she turned into a receptive and non-threatening whisper of a person,
the soul of submissiveness. Or maybe it was because she was over six feet
tall and a formidable person and this was her way of not overwhelming
us. She was a mystery and a fascination to me. Anyway, I went every
Wednesday night at 7 PM.
I took to yoga like a duck to water. My body was young, subtle and the
postures felt natural. The meditation was even better. I was raised as a
Primitive Baptist in a small southern Virginia town. Yoga wasn't in our
vocabulary. And if it had come up, it would've been reason for serious
concern. It might have even been cause for a call from the minister.
I was very quiet; I don't think I ever spoke except for the OM
meditation. I did the yoga poses easily, waiting eagerly for the
meditation. Marcia's voice took us on a long whispery voyage, an
incantation that took us down, down into our deeper selves to reach for
our highest spiritual inclinations. I loved it. It felt to me to be
superior way of discovering my higher self, a self that I didn't know I
had - one full of respect and belief in this vast part of me that I didn't
This one meditation, the reason I'm writing, happened after we were deep
into our inner worlds. We'd finished our exercises and Marcia led us into
a mediation. I was sailing along on the OM and I opened my eyes and I
wasn't sitting in a Grove Avenue townhouse, I was looking out of eyes in
another world. I was high up in the mountains, vast mountains, and
overwhelming endless vistas. No snow, just grey; grey skies, grey rocky
cliffs. A deep sense of peace penetrated my every cell. Where was I? Who
was this? I was nervous and excited at the same moment.
I looked down and my/his legs were brown, thin and skinny, I could see the
bones, and these legs were unbelievably dirty legs.
All of a sudden I became aware of HIM. I was surprised by a slightly
humorous charm, and genuine warmth that came from him. "We" were sitting
on the ground. The ground was grey, gravelly and cold. One small
dented pan, a small wooden box and nothing else. I blinked trying to
figure out what was happening. He laughed inside. His sweet peace was
all encompassing. I shut my eyes again, letting this anxiety-less world
envelop me. I relaxed into it.
After a while I started to get slightly worried about the Grove Avenue
yoga studio and how to get back there. I could feel the hard rocks under
his almost naked bottom. I could feel the emptiness of his stomach. His
dry mouth. I knew he lived slightly down and to the left in a small
cave. I wondered if he was on Grove Avenue checking out the yoga
class. I somehow knew that this was Tibet and he was an acetic monk.
Even though it was a warm and inviting energy I was ready to go. But
how? I decided that I had to go back into deep meditation. I focused my
energy, filled my being with OM and descended into my center.
Then I knew I was back in Richmond. I opened my eyes and was surprised
to see that everyone else had packed up and left. I was alone in the
I drove the 30 minutes back to the suburbs in a daze - from one world to
another. But I've never forgotten that experience and that man.
1 May 2007
How I became a Literary Agent
I was living in Virginia Beach with my accountant sister Brenda.
It was summer and I was taking care of her 9 year old son,
Colin, who I adored. I'd recently gotten a divorce. The Sandra
Martin Show, a half hour weekly program I hosted on local
television station where I interviewed new age speakers (Native
Americans, dream interpreters, Edgar Cayce experts, etc.) was on
hiatus. As well I had been working for the local PBS station, I
had tried to make a major move to national PBS producing a
series and it'd fallen through. I was nursing my wounds, taking
it easy and wondering about what my next (ad)venture would be.
I'd already crashed in a small plane in the Grand Canyon and
been lost sailing in the Bermuda Triangle. My life was never
One hot humid August Tuesday morning the doorbell rang. When I
opened the door; a young woman was standing there barely holding
I knew her face but not her name.
She said, "Carol told me you could help me."
"Do what?" I asked.
She came in, sat down, I put a box of tissues by her side and
Norma told me her lament. She had a manuscript of cat stories
for which she had gotten a big New York publishing contract and
a $7,000 advance. She needed that money badly. Her editor had
called her this morning, crying, and said that the publisher had
come in and fired everyone in that department, closed the
imprint and her contract was null and void. She said publishing
in New York is evil. They are not nice people. And to top it all
her editor was 8 months pregnant, how could she? She really
started crying then.
"Why did Carol think I could help you? I know nothing about
publishing." Plus Carol was psychologist, a therapist.
She said you were the only person she could think of that knew
how to deal with big corporations. I'd been an awarding winning
account executive with the PBS station.
"Yes, I do work with big companies but that doesn't mean I'd
know what to do about your problem."
Yikes. She was crying again, so I went into the kitchen to make
us some jasmine tea and think things through. On a yellow legal
pad, of which
Brenda should have stock in the manufacturer she used so many of
them, I wrote down the only things I thought would be helpful.
It was what I'd do if I was in the same situation. That is --- a
situation where I knew nothing about nothing, but that'd never
stopped me before so I wrote:
1) if you've sold it once I'm sure you could sell
2) If big companies think you want something
back, sometimes it makes them want it just in case you know
something they don't
3) And if they aren't interested they can take
forever to make a move so
4) I'd write them asking them to return my rights
immediately so I could move on.
Norma took the yellow pad, the tissues and left. She didn't say
much. I hoped I helped but made a mental note to tell Carol to
stop sending people my way while I drank my tea.
Norma returned that afternoon all bubbly and sweet.
"I'd like you to read my letter."
She requested her rights back in a very professional, lawyerly
way. It sounded great until the last paragraph which said, if
you have any
problems, please call Sandra Martin at 804 422 4921.
"Wait, you can't do that because I know nothing about this."
She starts to cry again and so I just say soothing things,
quietly walking her back to the door. Just leave it in I'm sure
it'll be alright.
Damn, I really do have to call Carol.
About two weeks later my phone rang early one morning. A young
man with a high squeaky voice said: "I don't know who you are,
I've never heard of you and you have no right to do this. We
have a contract."
And he went on and on. I couldn't get a word in edgewise to ask
what this was about. I'm trying to think who I could've upset so
much. I haven't even been doing anything plus I'm generally an
easy going, mild mannered Southern lady. Finally he says her
name, Norma, and I realize that this is the publishing company.
No wonder she was so upset. I've gotten upset for both of us by
then. I turn into my steely southern magnolia personality and
say, ďIn all my years of doing business I've never had anyone
speak to me in this tone of voice. Because of your attitude;
your abominable behavior you are going to have to renegotiate
this entire deal.Ē In my mind, I'm thinking, what are you
But anger had taken over. He says he'll see about that. And I
We hung up.
I walk around cooling off and thinking, damn, he wants her book,
why didn't I just give him Norma's number (after I found it of
course) and while I was looking for it, he called back, calm and
quiet and said, I talked with my publisher and she said we will
renegotiate with you.
I called Norma to give her his name and number and she says, "oh
Sandra can't you help me? Couldn't you just talk with him? They
are so evil."
Well I had nothing better to do and it was a big challenge. He
had really pissed me off. I went out, purchased a paperback
book, How to be your own Literary Agent, read it that night and
called Matt (the new editor) the next morning to say he'd be
dealing with me. I told him exactly what had happened.
After a few weeks we'd settled for a $45,000 advance, he sent me
roses and said you should really make this your profession.
Norma spread the word and soon I was in New York City meeting
editors and making deals.
That is how I became a literary agent.