Upcoming book - Flunk. Start.: Report From a Former Scientologist, by Sands Hall

Discussion in 'Books and Essays About Scientology' started by CommunicatorIC, Sep 10, 2017.

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  1. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

    Upcoming book - Flunk. Start.: Report From a Former Scientologist, by Sands Hall.

    Available March 1, 2018.


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    "Sands Hall has brought her remarkable talents to bear on this memoir. By turns endearing and alarming, this story describes the hazards involved in having to choose between . . . one sort of belonging and another. I consider it Sands' best book." —Lynn Freed, author of The Romance of Elsewhere and The Last Laugh

    In Flunk. Start., Sands Hall chronicles her slow yet willing absorption into the Church of Scientology. Her time in the Church, the late 1970s, includes the secretive illness and death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the ascension of David Miscavige. Hall compellingly reveals what drew her into the religion—what she found intriguing and useful—and how she came to confront its darker sides.

    As a young woman from a literary family striving to find her own way as an artist, Hall ricochets between the worlds of Shakespeare, avant-garde theater, and soap-opera, until her brilliant elder brother, playwright Oakley Hall III, falls from a bridge and suffers permanent brain damage. In the secluded canyons of Hollywood, she finds herself increasingly drawn toward the certainty that Scientology appears to offer.

    In this candid and nuanced memoir, Hall recounts her spiritual and artistic journey with a visceral affection for language, delighting in the way words can create a shared world. However, as Hall begins to grasp how purposefully Hubbard has created the unique language of Scientology—in the process isolating and indoctrinating its practitioners—she confronts how language can also be used as a tool of authoritarianism.

    Hall is a captivating guide, and Flunk. Start. explores how she has found meaning and purpose within that decade that for so long she thought of as lost; how she has faced the “flunk” represented by those years, and has embraced a way to “start” anew.

    Editorial Reviews


    Praise for Flunk. Start.

    "In this unflinching and nuanced self-portrait, Sands Hall examines a decade of entanglement with the cult of Scientology and her circuitous process of liberation. Interweaving the backstory of a tragic accident that left a hole in her legendary family, Hall takes readers on a profound journey of loss, longing, and recovery." ?Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Cafe

    "Sands Hall displays her fine literary talent in Flunk. Start., a raw and moving account of her personal journey through… the Church of Scientology. Sands shares her uniquely Californian coming-of-age tale with grace and courage." ?Julia Flynn Siler, author of The House of Mondavi and Lost Kingdom

    "It is a great strength of Sands Hall's clear-eyed and compelling memoir that she shows what she found authentic and rewarding in the Church of Scientology, not merely its corruption and imprisoning dogma. There is regret in her account but little anger or blame. Her triumph is not that she got out, but that she winnowed what nourishment the church could provide and took it forward in her spiritual journey." ?John Daniel, author of Gifted and Rogue River Journal Praise for Catching Heaven

    Random House Reader's Circle Selection 2001
    Willa Award Finalist for Best Contemporary Fiction

    "Rich, warm, and utterly satisfying… [A] wonderful debut from a first-rate storyteller." ?Amy Tan, author of The Valley of Amazement

    "[A] polished, accomplished debut… Endlessly intriguing… The prose is richly layered with metaphor and symbolism. For the discerning reader, nothing in this finely crafted work is extraneous." ?San Francisco Chronicle

    "Vibrant… Deftly reveals the push and pull between two sisters who love each other dearly, but who face new tensions when their lives collide in mid course… A realistic story of two women trying to let go of old hurts and find love that will last." ?The New York Times Book Review

    "Flashes of heart and soul…There is something achingly sad about these sisters' realization that some things in life have simply passed them by. And it's that simple truth that makes Catching Heavan a nice catch." ?New York Post

    "Sands Hall is a wonderful writer, full of soul and feeling." ?Anne Lamott

    "In the small western town of Marengo one person arrives, one person returns, one person stays put. Each inhabits a private world of possibility, passion, and regret. Bring them together and you have Sands Hall's Catching Heaven, a book that contains some of the realest fictional people you'll ever meet. Elegantly constructed, vividly conveyed, with heart enough for three." ?Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

    "Ms. Hall writes with a genuine gift for how we (humans) sound, and for sensing how we feel and think in our everyday lives. But she also seems to intuit what happens between these two realms - between the said and the thought and the felt. As Octavio Paz wrote, what's 'in between' is where the poetry lies. And so it does in Catching Heaven." ?Richard Ford, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the Bascombe novels

    "With fluid, elegant prose and a watchful eye for detail, Hall has crafted a compelling novel about love, loss, and hope." ?The Sacramento Bee

    Praise for Tools of the Writer's Craft

    "Superbly practical, filled with terrific exercises, anecdotes and examples. Sands Hall is a beautiful writer and a brilliant teacher." ?Max Byrd, author of Grant

    "Sands Hall's love of the written word has inspired hundreds of her students, including many grateful published authors." ?Steve Susoyev, author of People Farm

    "Reading this book is like learning how a juggler juggles. It will be invaluable for writers new and old, and for anyone giving or taking a writing workshop." ?Lynn Freed, author of The Romance of Elsewhere

    About the Author

    SANDS HALL is the author of the novel, Catching Heaven, a Willa Award Finalist for Best Contemporary Fiction, and a Random House Reader’s Circle selection; and of a book of writing essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. She teaches at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the Community of Writers, Squaw Valley, and is a Teaching Professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.

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    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  2. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter



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    Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

    Foreword: Knowledge Report For a decade, I pretended that a decade of my life hadn't happened. Those "lost" years included the seven I was involved with the Church of Scientology, and the three it took to be certain I wouldn't, again, return. Eventually, I began to peer and prod and even write about those years and just as I'd completed a shaggy draft of this memoir, found out that Jamie, the man who'd introduced me to the Church, had died. A memorial was planned for him in Los Angeles, a city I'd fled decades before and since visited just once?and then only because a book tour took me there. Because I'd been examining what had come of meeting and then marrying Jamie, it seemed imperative to attend his memorial, even though it meant putting myself back in the maw of what I'd first found scary, then intriguing, and then, during the awful time of leaving, terrifying.

    I'd also see people who'd once been incredibly dear to me but with whom, since leaving the Church, I'd lost contact. One of them, Paloma?who'd been not only a close friend, but also one of my auditors (Scientology's form of counselor)?even offered her guestroom. Paloma's open-heartedness and her willingness to walk outside Scientology's boundaries moved and surprised me: generally, those in the Church do not associate with those who have defected from it. But Paloma welcomed me, and, as we always had, we talked deeply, including about what we were currently writing. She pressed, and finally I offered up that I'd finished a draft of a memoir.

    "About Scientology!" I nodded, and she looked shocked. I told her it was also about my family, "who was its own kind of cult, you know," I said, laughing.

    She looked troubled, and after a bit more discussion, I suggested we not talk further about it. "When you start your next chunk of auditing," I said, "you're going to have to answer those 'security questions' about who you've been talking to. I don't want to make trouble for you in any way."

    Paloma shook her head. "I don't have that kind of relationship with the Church. I won't let them dictate who are and who are not my friends."

    I found this admirable, and even possible: Paloma has been married to a non-Scientologist for three decades; perhaps she and the Church?she and her own psyche?had figured things out. And for a few months after that remarkable and ultimately very heartwarming time in Los Angeles, she and I stayed in touch. In one startling phone call she even implied that she might have accomplished all she needed to in the Church.

    However, almost immediately after that admission, the phone calls and emails stopped. As Scientologists put it, we "fell out of comm." I was not surprised. I knew she was regretting our candid discussions. A few months later, a mutual friend told me she was ill. This, too, I did not find surprising. Because Scientology?like Christian Science and other spiritual paths?believes that physical troubles are linked to emotional and psychological ones, I was fairly sure that Paloma was tracing her illness back to our talks: If she had doubted, and certainly in communicating such feelings to an ex-Scientologist, she was guilty of transgressions against her church. By now she'd be seeing someone known as the "Ethics Officer." Maybe getting auditing. In any case, spending a lot of money "handling" the fact that she'd talked to an apostate. She would not be in touch again.

    So I was startled when, a few months later, I received a business-sized envelope with her name and address in the upper left hand corner.

    Standing in the morning sun next to my mailbox, which is at the end of my driveway in the rural area where I live, I opened it. Inside were three typed pages. Centered at the top of the first page were the words:

    Knowledge Report

    For even a seasoned member of the Church of Scientology, the phrase, "Knowledge Report" can buckle the knees; to be the subject of one can curdle the blood. Knowledge Reports are one of the increasingly totalitarian tactics Hubbard employed as Scientology became bigger and more successful?and more controversial. In a 1982 policy letter, "Keeping Scientology Working," he writes that for an organization to run effectively, "the individual members themselves enforce the actions and mores of the group."[ii] This leads to rampant paranoia, as it's possible to imagine that every step you take in your job?especially if you work in an organization established on Hubbard's principles?and indeed in your life, is being observed: snitching is encouraged. As a Knowledge Report may lead to intense disciplinary measures, to receive one is literally hair-raising.

    The walk out to my mailbox that morning was in order to stretch my legs and take a break from writing; I was almost done with a second draft of the memoir. By that time, I had processed enough of my emotions about the Church to be able to give a laugh at what I held in my hand, although it was a shocked laugh. I understood why Paloma might have been led to write a Knowledge Report, but why on earth would she send me a copy? It would be placed in her Ethics folder?this much I remembered from my time in the Church?but I wasn't a Scientologist, hadn't been one in over a decade; Scientology's protocols had nothing to do with me.

    Nevertheless, as I read what Paloma had written, my world tilted and spun.

    Time, Place, Form, Event,[iii] Hubbard requires in such a report, and Paloma supplied them. She described our friendship while I was in the Church, discussed her role as my auditor, addressed how my parents had been virulent in their disapproval, how the Church had dubbed them Suppressive Persons and insisted I formally disconnect from them, which I'd refused to do. She also included details of our recent talks, including the fact that I'd called Scientology a "cult"; and that?this was the "knowledge" she was "reporting"?I was writing a memoir about it. Except for perspective (her point of view was not mine), what she wrote was neither histrionic nor incorrect. It was knowledge?her knowledge?and, being a good Scientologist, she reported it.

    I scanned the pages again, wondering what her purpose was. Was the Report was designed to scare me? Would the Church, having this knowledge, attack me, as they are infamous for doing to those who criticize them? Was this intended to "shut me up?"

    Of course it was intended to scare me, and to shut me up: the Church uses these totalitarian methods with utter purposefulness. And it demands its practitioners employ them as well, creating a semi-hysterical "us versus them" tension that keeps those practitioners in thrall. I knew this. I was even empathetic to her need to employ every available tool to make her illness go away. Still, I was shocked that Paloma, smart and kind, and a writer herself, would be willing to subject a fellow writer, and a friend, to such a thing.

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    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  3. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter



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    But why be shocked? Paloma had been a Scientologist for at least thirty years, weathering decades of attacks against Church practices. Her decision to file a Knowledge Report?and to send a copy to me?is simply an example of the mind control her Church exercises, teaching its practitioners, as they accept and embrace its commonsensical and useful ideas, to accept and embrace its authoritarian and outrageous ones. Scientologists willingly and of their own accord place those blinding mechanisms around their intelligences?so that they can continue to believe.

    I know, because I was once so persuaded. With determination, I'd screwed those mechanisms into place, and in spite of ferocious doubts, kept them there a long time.

    I slid the pages of the Knowledge Report back into its envelope and headed back up the driveway, thinking of the many memoirs, written by former Scientologists, filled with their dreadful stories, and of the nonfiction books and documentaries that substantiate these abuses; thinking too, how I have no specific abuses to report in my own book?except how and why I came to be in a cult for seven years. Beyond this incident of receiving a Knowledge Report-?if one can call it an "incident"?I had no personal outrage or scandal to relate. I never had to sleep in a closet, or scrub a latrine with my toothbrush; I was never locked in a trailer playing musical chairs with my future attached to grabbing a seat. I lost dear friends when I finally left, but I didn't have to abandon cherished family, leap an electric fence on a motorcycle, execute a complicated escape plan.

    Although, I did lose things. Those years, for instance.

    That's how I'd thought of it, for a very long time.

    However. Scientologists, as they learn a particular skill, "drill" that skill with a partner. If one does the drill incorrectly, the partner says, "Flunk." And, immediately, then, "Start." The first few times I experienced this I'd been startled, even horrified, but I came to see its efficacy: you just get on with doing the thing you didn't do correctly the first time. Staying in Scientology as long as I did, I felt I'd "flunked" a huge chunk of my life. But writing the book was changing that perspective, and I was finding a possible "start." Certainly in examining those "lost" years and what, in fact, I might have gained from them. Also the hope that the book might bolster a person doubting her own involvement in the Church to find the courage to leave; maybe it would even include those who felt they'd tossed a decade into the dustbin in other ways?a drug problem, a destructive relationship?and offer a lens through which to see meaning and purpose. Not so much in having made those choices in the first place, but in the life we have as a result. That is, having "flunked," there is the option to "start."

    All this I thought about on that walk back from the mailbox. Then I settled in again at my desk, put the envelope in a drawer, and got back to work. I was, I realized somewhat grimly, writing a knowledge report of my own.

    Product details

    Print Length: 368 pages
    Publisher: Counterpoint (March 1, 2018)
    Publication Date: March 1, 2018
    Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
    Language: English
    ASIN: B071P44P9R
    Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    Not Enabled
    Word Wise: Not Enabled
    Lending: Not Enabled
    Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,581,784 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #299 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Other Religions, Practices & Sacred Texts > Scientology
    #2908 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Religion & Spirituality > Christian Books & Bibles > Christian Living > Faith
    #7136 in Books > Religion & Spirituality > Worship & Devotion > Faith

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    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
  4. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

    Sands Hall Scientology Service Completions.


    Sands Hall: Midnight Decision


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    I married Jamie Faunt, bass player extraordinaire, in 1982; we divorced in 1984; in our time together he introduced me to Scientology, where (I’ve often thought) I squandered too many years of my life.

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  5. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

  6. EZ Linus

    EZ Linus Patron with Honors

    I don't get the way this is promoted really. It's an apologist's book, then again, what, she has other realizations after the book's was written? Is this what possibly happened? If so, it is really unfortunate that the promo went out in this manner. This nearly happened to me, so I can't say I don't understand. I am highly interested in her and her story and what's going on with this. I think she needed more time to write the book after Jamie died. I think it could be possible that other things hit her since she wrote her story and planned the release. I am completely guessing of course.

    If not...I really hopes she sees this post because I would like to possibly deliver a message to her.
  7. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

    I have no reason to believe she will see your post. As far as I know, Sands Hall doesn't know ESMB exists, much less this thread. You may, however, wish to contact her via her website to express your concerns:


  8. CommunicatorIC

    CommunicatorIC @IndieScieNews on Twitter

    Sands Hall, author of the upcoming book Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology, was interviewed by Andy Nolch on the Indie Scientology Podcast.

    Notice the new title.

    It appears the book will be available on March 13, 2018.

    It also appears the book has a new cover:

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018

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