Thursday, May 24, 2007

Remembering in writing.....

  • Recently, Dandelion Books, the publisher of two of my books, asked me to write an article explaining why I wrote a memoir about my grandparents. The hope was to inspire others to write similar books about their ancestors. It seemed to be a perfect article in celebration of Memorial Day. My grandparents loved Memorial Day, but always called it Decoration Day. They loved the USA but were quite outspoken about politics, taxes, and government programs. Following is the article that can be found on the Dandelion website at


Treasures in the Attic of Memories

When my uncle suggested an interesting writing project might be a book about my maternal grandmother’s life, I hesitated. Granted, my grandma and grandpa lived through pivotal periods of the 20th century -- World War I, women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam War. They saw the advent of electricity, the automobile, radio, and television. And yes, their love story was touching, funny, and engaging. Grandma’s marriage to the only man she ever loved, her gangly Kansas farm boy, lasted more than sixty years. So much of their history was lost when my grandparents died, I doubted my ability to tell such a story in ways readers would enjoy.

I knew many of their experiences from stories they told of early life on the farm and the struggles they endured trying to raise five children at a time when almost every American was poor. In way of encouragement, my uncle sent me audiotapes and videotapes of Grandma telling stories of her childhood and youth. Within those tapes I found treasure, and the framework on which to build the creative non-fiction novel, My Name is Esther Clara.

I’m still surprised at the response this book received. I’m not accustomed to such attentions:

The editor at Dandelion Books loved it. I had expected just the opposite;

A TV producer in Pennsylvania loved the book and scheduled an interview with me. This twenty minute interview featuring me and my book was shown twice -- once live and once in rebroadcast;

Libraries and gift shops in my home state scheduled readings and signings;

Relatives I’d never met discovered the book in various ways and called the publisher to get my contact information and to order copies of the book. Long lost relatives scheduled a reunion so they could meet me;

Fans of my earlier books said this might just be my best book yet;

Strangers who did not know Grandma or me related to her strength, her feisty personality and outspoken ways. One woman said she had read the book four times because she admires my grandma so much;

And, the book is under consideration for the Kansas Notable Book Award this year.

My grandparents were not rich or famous. Neither am I. If you’ve ever considered writing a memoir about your parents or grandparents, now is the time to start. The courage and determination of common everyday citizens in past generations made this country great. Their stories should be told.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blogs that make you think??

THINKING BLOGGER AWARD. I tried to post the icon here but all that showed up is html that would not transform itself to the thinking blogger icon. You'll have to use your imagination here. Evidently my thinker is not working up to speed.

That space rascal Aston West nominated my recent posting "May Day Memories" for the Thinking Blogger Award. Thanks Aston! Obviously, I'm not a thinking blogger all the time because I'm supposed to add an icon to my sidebar linking to the post he nominated and.....I don't have a sidebar, can't figure out how to GET a sidebar on this new template, so readers will have to rough it and just scroll down a couple posts.

As part of the award, I'm supposed to list five blogs that make me think, so here goes: Elizabeth Lucas-Taylor dedicates a large portion of her time providing helpful information for writers, authors, and freelancers. I visit her blog often to learn the latest tips and hints. Any of her posts qualify for the Thinking Blogger Award. Tom Parker's thought processes never cease to amaze me. He is the thinking person's writer par excellence but I'm nominating "Under the Shadow of the Potential" for this award. His thoughts on tornadoes, lives lost, and homes destroyed will definitely make readers think. I'm devoted to reading Gerald England's blog because he lives in an area of the world that interests me. His post "Windmere, or What's in a Name" contained information both interesting and informative. John Evanetski combines multiple elements to create his blog. "A Lifetime Journey to Self-Realization" is the exceptional post I recommend to thinking bloggers. In the post "Shyness" Gary shares his struggles with being shy. As a person who has battled shyness all her life, this post made me think beyond the end of my nose.

OK, my work is done here. Now it's up to my five candidates to pass on the mantle of the Thinking Blogger Award to others.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Waxing and Waning

My life has waxed and waned so often, sometimes I'm dizzy from the effect. This is especially true in the literary aspect of life. From the moment my first book was released, for example, sales have occasionally waxed but mostly waned. I say that with my sense of humor securely intact. That they sell any copies at all is a blessing for an unknown writer.

The Grass Dance was published in 2001. It is not my best book but received glowing reviews and continues to sell regularly. The inception of my modest but vocal fan base came as a result of this first book. I've never understood the appeal of this non-fiction book but am surely grateful that most readers continue to embrace the message. Not everyone loved the book. Yes, it's had an occasional bash but continues to sell steadily, especially on Amazon.

The Alley of Wishes hit the bookstores in 2003. I'd been working on this fictional book for more than 20 years as the story and characters evolved and my interest in it waxed and waned. Some readers connected with this story of unconditional love in incredible ways. Others thought the writing style "too literary." The most helpful feedback I've received as writer came from this book. This is the book of my heart. Die hard fans adored it and beg for a prequel or sequel, but my interest in writing has waned. This is the one book I expected to outsell all others I've written.

My Name is Esther Clara was released in 2006, another non-fiction book, the first person rendition of my maternal grandmother's life. I received more media attention for this book than any other but didn't see a remarkable spike in sales as a result of such publicity. If I had to choose, this is the book I'd want to succeed because my grandparents were so dear to my heart. Fans were less enamored of this book than they were the first two, probably because The Alley of Wishes was a tough act to follow in every respect.

Color of Laughter, Color of Tears was a book of poetry released in 2005, written with Stephen R. Sulik, a Texas cop. Unfortunately, this book is no longer available because the publisher went out of business. Anyone curious about my poetry will have to remain curious. Sulik originally wanted the poetry to represent "harsh and soft" -- an interplay of male and female. He soon discovered that my work represented harsh, stark realities and was in no way soft so he had to regroup. We were so proud to have a book of poetry published and regret our publisher's demise.

Will I add more books to my list of accomplishments? I hope so. The book I'm working on now will be different than all the others.....if I can make it work and do the subject matter justice.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May Day Memories

I spent the day yesterday thinking about what May Day meant when I was a child. Mom loved May Day and threw herself into celebrating it with the same gusto she assigned to every other holiday. For several days before May 1st, she assembled gaily colored construction paper, glue, scissors and lacy paper trim. Mom didn't have much money for such frivolous purchases, so bought her May basket makings at the five and dime a bit at a time for weeks in advance.

All four of her kids sat around the kitchen table with Mom, constructing May baskets. She encouraged us to use our imaginations. Mom was a master at such encouragement. Even the clumsiest attempts at creativity were praised to the high heavens. Some of the baskets were works of art, others barely recognizable as baskets. Just as long as they were sturdy enough to hold flowers, candy, or cookies, Mom's goals were met.

The evening before or the morning of our basket deliveries, we kids picked flowers. In those days by May first, we had blooming forsythia, lilacs, and spirea in our yard. Each basket featured Mom's home made goodies and a cheery nosegay of flowers. Grandma and Grandpa were always our first recipients. The fun of May Day was that the baskets should be a surprise, delivered in secret. I doubt if it was much of a secret, four chubby munchkins sitting May baskets on their porch while giggling and scrambling to run off before being seen. But we carried out our deliveries enthusiastically.

Mom made a list of those who received May baskets. Her list included relatives, neighbors, teachers, and friends. We kids ran all over town delivering our gifts, thrilled with the task and proud to be brightening the day of people we knew.

Mom said the purpose of May Day baskets was to bring joy to both the givers and the recipients. I miss our May Day activities. Do people deliver home made May baskets today? I haven't seen one since childhood. But every year on May 1st, I feel an overwhelming need to make and deliver baskets. The child in me surfaces and a little spark of joy sneaks in. Just about everyone I love is scattered around the country now. I'd love to magically transport myself to their doors, deposit a basket of joy then run away to hide and watch their faces when they discover the gift.

I hope you enjoy the nosegay of flowers I put on your grave, Mom. It was a combination birthday and May Day present. It was sister Jeanne's idea because she remembers May Day too. We all do.

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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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