Friday, December 30, 2005

A message to Esther Clara.

Well, Grandma, it's official. Your book is trickling out to the masses. You have your own order page on and at the Barnes & Noble website. One day soon you'll find yourself on Amazon too. Last week I ordered copies for my family and hope to hold the finished product in my hands any day now.

I told all your stories to anyone who cares to read them, Grandma, the ones I remembered as well as those Don saved on audio and videotapes through the years. Remember the outhouse you accidentally burned down on the farm near Marcus, Iowa? The hogs you almost killed by hiding pepper in their slop? You'd accomplished a lot by age five!

The years you and Grandpa shared in Frankfort and Marysville, Kansas and Fairbury, Nebraska were shared with fondness, just as you remembered them. The people and places you loved are in your book. And every awful thing you and Grandpa hated about the 20th Century wars, the Dust Bowl and Depression, poverty, classism, human snobbery, and politicians is told as honestly as I could make it.

That you existed was a blessed gift to me. You showed me that even those of common roots could make a lasting contribution in this world. This book about your long and interesting life is my gift to you and Grandpa. I'll keep you posted on the outcome, especially if I run across your relatives in Iowa along the way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Alley of Wishes

This book has been a pang in my heart for more than 20 years. I wrote it for my mother, who died long before it was published. In those two decades it has been rewritten several times. Of my four books, this is the sentimental favorite.

Alley, as I fondly call it, is about love but not what I consider a romance novel. It's a story about war's destruction and the strength to be gained from true friendship and love in all its forms. The two main characters are emotionally scarred and psychologically devastated by life, but learn together that nothing is hopeless when faced with courage and hope.

Locations include the French front during World War I, the city of Paris during and after the war, and America after the war. Fans of the book hope for a prequel or sequel. My publisher swears it will become a movie. If it becomes a movie, who should represent the two main characters -- Beck Sanow and Cerise L'Oiseau? Envision the stars who play Clark Kent and Lana Lang in Smallville. They are the perfect size and type, with the sexual chemistry and acting ability to make the story credible onscreen.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Writing Life.

Being a writer is not the glamorous life you might imagine. And becoming a published writer can be a crapshoot, not necessarily dependent on skill or talent. I offer up myself as living proof of that last sentence. :) After almost 5 years and 4 published books, I remain a relatively unknown writer. Stephen King or Willa Cather I'm not, but do have my little base of fans. My next few blogs will be devoted to them.

I like to write in different genres. That is, I've tried to make each book different. Writing fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry all require different writing "muscles." I search out various online sites -- or they find me -- to post my poetry and short stories. My short stories or poetry can be found on some of the sites listed in my links. My links are not complete yet but soon will be.

2006 will be a banner year for me. My fourth book will be out in January from Dandelion Books. (More about that one soon so watch for it.) Also out in January is an anthology containing one of my nursing stories -- A Cup of Comfort for Nurses. This was my first experience with an anthology. My short story involves an amazing couple I visited as a Home Health nurse in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky: "Zeb and Ruby." Thanks to Adams Media for choosing my story for inclusion in their anthology.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A tent is no place to live through a Minnesota winter

"Anonymous" left a comment wishing I would expand on Esther Clara and her husband living in a tent through one Minnesota winter. Herb Ford counted himself blessed to have a good-paying job that winter. He had been promised that road construction crew members with families would live in cabins. After struggling through blizzards in their "Tin Lizzie" to the road construction site with two small children, they were issued a ragged tent for lodging, a small pot bellied stove for heat and cooking, and a metal chamber pot for their toilet. I can't imagine modern folks living like that, but Herb and Esther Clara squared their shoulders and said, "OK. We can do this." And they did. Herb and his fellow laborers worked 16 hours a day in howling winter winds, snow, and anything else Nature threw at them. Esther Clara cooked and washed with melted snow, entertained the kids, kept the chamber pot emptied and the ragged tent patched. She warmed quilts by the fire to warm Herb on his breaks and provided coffee with milk and sugar along with high calorie snacks for energy to keep him going. Herb thought building roads was an important job. It was the 1920s and America needed roads to transport people and goods across country. They survived, and decided if they could live with two kids in a tent through a Minnesota winter, they could do anything.

Could I do it? Not on my best day. Not ever. Could you do it?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Name is Esther Clara

A year or so ago my uncle Don Ford, State College PA, suggested I write a book about his mother's life. She was a rather amazing little mite of a woman who died at age 91 in 1989. I felt unequal to the task. Don sent audio and videotapes of Grandma telling stories about her childhood in Iowa, memories of life in WW I, the Depression and Dustbowl, WW 2 and other major events of the 20th century. Those tapes provided the framework for her story.

Esther Clara Sanow was born and raised in Cherokee County Iowa, near Marcus. In 1916 a tall young man from Kansas married her and took her to Frankfort Kansas on a train. What adventures she and Herb Ford shared during their 65 years of marriage! Over the years they lived in Frankfort and Marysville Kansas, Sioux City Iowa, and Fairbury Nebraska. They lived in a tent through a bitter winter in the barrens of Minnesota while Grandpa built roads in the 1920s. They were born of common working stock but lived lives unimaginable to us today in our society. Along the way they instilled their values in children and grandchildren. I'm proud to say I share the DNA of these wise, humorous, tough, brave people. Herb and Esther Ford are two prime examples of the citizens who made America what it is today -- the most powerful country on earth.

My Name is Esther Clara is at the printer's now. I can't wait to hold the finished copy in my hands! My publisher thinks Esther Clara has many lessons to teach posthumously. I'll leave it to readers to decide. Way to go, Grandma! You're still kicking in the 21st century, just like you hoped you'd be.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blogging Princess? Poetry Queen?

Here I am, just barely getting the hang of this blogging business, when two people send emails suggesting I change the name of my blog. Now I do appreciate that someone actually reads my meanderings through blogdom. But I would probably have no better luck changing the name of my blog than I did establishing clickable links on my "Links" feature. Face it. A technology whiz I am not, so maybe a title of Blogging Princess is out.

Poetry Queen falls under the same category. I do write poetry, yes, and do have one poetry book out there thanks to Winterwolf Publishing. My poetry can be found online at various sites, some of which are listed in my links. But a poetry QUEEN, dear friends, I'm far from being. Let's do this: Anyone so inclined may address me as a Blogging Princess or Poetry Queen. I'll answer to nearly anything that's semi-complimentary. But for now I'll leave my blog title as is because I'm still struggling.

But thanks for the compliments, folks.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Holiday Memories.

In 1981 my grandpa died. Herb Ford loved Christmas more than any child you can imagine. He loved every nuance of the season -- family, decorations, presents, the happy faces of children and grandchildren, and what he called "good eats." He was fifty years and one week older than me and one of the solid anchors in my life. If I concentrate, think back, I can still see his twinkling blue eyes and happy smiling face. Grandma always said he had a streak of mischief in him a mile wide, but his heart was big and soft. I miss my grandpa's big, soft heart.

Mother died December 17, 1984. Verla Ford Smith was a beaten down romantic who died too young at 65. Despite the disappointments in her life, she celebrated every holiday with enthusiasm. No one wrapped presents as prettily as Mom. No one made better cookies or a finer Yankee pot roast. My mouth waters still, just thinking of her cooking. When she died eight days before Christmas, I was relieved. She had suffered so. Cancer had taken her heart, spirit, and breath. But no holiday has been the same since her death. I try to celebrate like she did, to honor her if for no other reason. I miss my mother and wish I could return to the days when she was young and healthy.

Grandma died in October 1989. Esther Clara Sanow Ford loved holidays, but the Westinghouse cooker that had done so many turkeys to perfection was cold that Christmas. The tiny house she'd shared with Grandpa since 1945 stood empty. Only the ghosts of past Christmases remained to haunt my memory. I was three years old when they moved into that house. For forty-two years I'd celebrated Christmas with other family members jammed into the crowded dining room. Grandma paid me high honor one day near the end of her life when she smiled and said, "You know, we're more than relatives. We're pals." She's been gone for 16 years but I still miss my spunky, little pal.

Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa were never politically correct. They said what they wanted, based on what their hearts dictated. No "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" for them. If they were here, they'd tell me "Merry Christmas!" Wherever they are, I hope they're happy and together.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Laurel Johnson Blogs?

Those who know me will have no problem accepting that I write stuff. They've read my reviews, and some have even read my books. But blogging? No one will believe I would even consider blogging. Well, I'm gonna try. Hope someone will let me know what they think.

My Blogspot will be a mishmash of thoughts, information about me and the things important to me, my books, and maybe even politics will creep in. Everything depends on whether or not I can figure out how to add said info at regular intervals.

All my time has been taken up lately with completing proofs of my latest book, My Name is Esther Clara, coming soon from Dandelion Books.. This book is about my maternal grandmother and her life from 1898 to 1989. I miss her especially at Christmas. Sometimes I feel like an orphan with no mother or grandparents to add their special touches to holidays. If I get the hang of this blogging thing, I'll post some photos of the special people who made my life so safe and happy.

This week the book proofs went to the printer so I could switch my attention to Christmas. Yesterday I made my world famous peanut clusters and butter cookies to share with family and friends. It's been a busy week but I'll try to check back soon and practice my blogging.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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