Friday, October 11, 2013

Time to Reflect

Losing a parent is a time to reflect back on your family life. And when your dad is 93 when he passes on, you have a lot to think back on.
My parents raised three children who were only nineteen months apart. For the twins and me, it was wonderful. We had sibs close to our own age to play with. There were numberless games of Monopoly and Life during the long summers in the fifties.
My folks were like everyone else's folks. Or so I thought. They were hardworking, honest, and devoted to their family. They loved me and wanted the best for me.
You can tell from this picture just how much they loved us.
I learned later that not everyone's family was as perfect as mine.  I have been so blessed.
Getting back into my normal routine has been hard. Due to a variety of circumstances, I spent about a month down South in August. It was a wrenching experience to watch Dad go through difficult surgery. I stayed with him and Momma for a few days after the surgery and then returned home to Pennsylvania. He was doing great when I left.
He died in the hospital three days after I had returned home, so it was back to Shreveport for the funeral.
I learned a whole lot about myself during the experience. Some of the things I learned were painful. All were useful. I learned that I will melt down after twenty hours of no sleep. I also learned I have pretty good stamina when it's needed. I learned just how much harder I need to work at kindness. The people we dealt with were so gracious and lovely in Shreveport. Their kindness meant so much.
I got an even deeper appreciation of my adult children. I knew my husband would be a great emotional support. But I was overwhelmed at how much support I got from my children as well.
The saddest thing of all was to see how lost my mom is without my dad. It's great when people are married for over sixty years. But it's also disaster when one of them leaves the other behind.
My writing has been at a standstill ever since. I keep writing for the newspaper, but the other writing just seems to be on hold. I am hoping that any day now, I will get excited again and start to write book proposals and edit my novel. 
For now, my desk and some of my closets are getting cleaned out.
Maybe these few thoughts will help me move on and write about what I love.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Music

I'm steeped in Civil War music these days.The progress on my Civil War book included fun research at the Danville Iron Heritage Festival. Look at the bands I got to hear!
Dodworth Saxhorn Band of Ann Arbor, Michigan

Excelsior Cornet Band of New York from Syracuse, New York

The 2nd South Carolina String Band
These three bands are beyond amazing. The Dodworth can be found on the web here: and they stream music all the time.

The Excelsior Cornet Band has this site:
Their E flat cornet player, Jeff Stockham, is a great treasure. Their music was beautiful.

 The 2nd South Carolina String Band is here on the net:
Note their web address. They are one of the best known civil war music groups in the country. Their music is what might have been heard around the campfire. An outstanding group.

So that was my experience at the Danville Iron Heritage Festival. I'm really getting close to finishing up the book proposal. I cannot wait to start writing this book!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Who would have guessed it would be the Civil War?

Who would have guessed that my chosen topic would be the Civil War? I'm not much of a war history buff. I'm more about biography and social history. But when Michael joined the Hazleton Liberty Band which has been in continuous existence since before the Civil War, I just couldn't find out enough. So the topic's not so much the war but the bands and the music of the Civil War.
Now I know I want to share this information with kids. I've been thinking about this book for several years.
I got such a good response from two editors at the nonfiction conference a few weeks ago, that it's full steam ahead now. And this weekend, I'm off to the Danville Iron Heritage Festival which will emphasize the Civil War period. There will be four of these wonderful reenactor bands present. Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nonfiction Heaven at the 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference

I'm just back from the 21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference at SUNY New Paltz. This is the glass entryway into the student union where all the action occurred.
If you write nonfiction for children, you go to conferences and they spend 95 per cent of the time talking about fiction and 5 per cent talking about nonfiction. But at this conference it was 100 per cent nonfiction.
It's been a journey of discovery for me to learn that I'm better at nonfiction than fiction. Maybe all writers want to write the Great American Novel.
But nonfiction is important too. I remember choosing a book about Annie Oakley when given the choice of any book at my elementary school book fair. I had been in "Annie Get Your Gun" and wanted to know more about the real Annie Oakley.
I met editors, authors and aspiring folk like myself.
The coolest moment was when Lou Waryncia who heads up Cobblestone Publishing gave me a shoutout about my four articles in Calliope last month. How cool was that?
Well, not as cool as the two editors who said they will look at my book proposal on Civil War Bands.
Many thanks are due to Lionel Bender and Star Consulting for bringing the thing together.
We stayed in the dorms. What a trip back in time! 
And did I mention the strawberries? I bought a quart of freshly-picked strawberries on my way into New Paltz and used them for snacks in between sessions.
More info on sessions in my next post.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tooting my own horn--Calliope!

I had the amazing opportunity to write four articles for May's issue of Calliope magazine. If you're not familiar with this Cobblestone publication you can find out more about it and see a sample issue here: Calliope magazine website.

For the issue, I wrote an article about music that talks, the piano, and, most fun of all, I got to interview Michael Giacchino, the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning composer. He won the Oscar for Up!

Not only did I get to talk to Mr. Giacchino but I also was sent a page from the original score and a page from the suite he wrote from Up. My annotations on the score are also in the magazine!

Such a fun project! As I'm now preparing to attend the first-ever conference on children's nonfiction, I'm so happy I have this issue to be proud of as I talk with book and magazine publishers.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I've neglected you, my wonderful blog! I've been very busy writing for the Dallas Post, the Times Leader and have even added another regional paper to my list of assignments.
And I've gotten the exciting issue of Calliope Magazine with my five articles including the wonderful interview with Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino.
Life is passing quickly and we've been working on a lot of projects that reflect our desire to retire. So I haven't had the time to devote myself to my long-term writing career. I hope that I'm back on that track soon.
But every time I publish another article, cover another meeting, write another feature, I'm learning more about the writing process and that can't be bad.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Next Project--Too Many Ideas

Is there such a thing as too many ideas? Yes! I'm far, far from the "I don't know what to write about" stage. I took nineteen, count them, nineteen different book ideas to my writers' critique group the other night and asked them to comment on them in the margins. One person's assessment? Write them all!

I don't think I have time. And these were just the ideas for children's books. I have another long list for grown-up books as well.

So how did I get in this mess?

One thing I do constantly is consider what I will write next. I know that editing is some people's favorite activity. But it's not mine. But it is so, so necessary. So to get through the slog I daydream about what my next book will be.

Here's some of the ideas so you can see how perversely diverse they were:

Yaz Novak is not ever going to live up to his family’s baseball prowess but he discovers that he has a special talent of his own which might just save the team.

Ship de Souza’s parents are anthropologists who send him off to a different relative each summer. But when Ship is packed off to his great uncle’s houseboat in South Louisiana, he discovers his uncle is a pirate.

Through a correspondence begun after the Civil War, two cousins, one from the North and one from the South, come to terms with their feelings about the cruelest war of all.

Eiglenn is a social outcast in her caste called Under which lives in underground caves. When the oppressive society of Up punishes her father unjustly, a surprising act of mercy by the Prince begins her quest to change her world and his.

It’s 2113 and a twin boy and girl are sent from their space station into the past to help their time-traveling parents. They’re sent to eighteenth century France to find an artist named Elisabeth VigĂ©e-Lebrun and to fix something in the past that will allow their parents to come back home.

Jack hates a school assignment to write to a pen pal in France. When he bends the truth about himself, he is distressed to hear that his pen pal and her parents are coming to America to meet the wonderful boy he described.

It’s 1906 in South Louisiana. Nine-year-old Simone says goodbye to her father on his way to his barbershop but he doesn’t come home. Even when others give up, Simone decides to find him if she has to search every bayou in South Louisiana.

It’s the annual “Boyfriend for the Day” auction for charity at Tickle Middle School. But somehow the chess club president, Freddy Limongelli, finds his name on the list. What if no one bids for him? Or what if someone does? Either way, it’s going to be social death.

So what do you do when you have too many ideas? I'm thinking of putting these up for bids on eBay for all those people who want to write and who say they don't have a plot. I've got nineteen, thank you, and I don't have time to write them all. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I Can Never Write About

Our 42nd Anniversary
Write what you know. Have you ever heard that advice? And yet, folks write historical, science fiction and fantasy novels. And I'm almost sure that most mystery writers have never been involved in a real murder investigation.

So what does it mean? I think when we write what we know, we are looking deep within ourselves for experiences that strike a common chord in our fellow beings. There have been few writers in the history of the world who have been able to cover the entire range of human experience. Shakespeare comes to mind.

The chances of my writing a believable story about a dysfunctional relationship or an unhappy marriage are practically nil. After forty-two years of wedded bliss, I am an expert on how great marriage can be. Unhappy marriages are a closed book to me. That kind of book is just not going to be in my oeuvre.

Novels require you to spend many months thinking about problems and conflict. I wouldn't even want to spend six months to a year thinking about husbands and wives who can't get along.

But I have plenty of other topics to write about with confidence. The joys and heartbreaks of parenthood. The challenges of childhood. The struggle to find that one right person. The process of soul searching. The role of gender in a woman's life.

I write romantic, humorous novels with happy endings because that's what I know. And I thank my husband Michael for that. Ours has a been a very happy journey. But without laughter, we would never have made it this far.

So happy anniversary to us. Forty-two years later, we've still got the fairy tale ending.

Friday, January 18, 2013

One of the greatest tributes ever

I ran across this poem (now in the public domain) by Edith Wharton. She wrote it in January of 1919, the day after Teddy Roosevelt's death. It seems Teddy's second wife was her cousin. You can see the original handwritten copy here:

I have no idea how I missed this for so long. 

I believe this is one of the greatest tributes to a human being ever written. And the spiritual truth of it hit me like a brick. Who will help us when we pass the bar? May we all live our lives in such a way that we can leave leave this earth "content upon the ebb tide, with safe hearts."

Photo of Edith Wharton from Wikimedia. 

With the Tide

Somewhere I read, in an old book whose name
Is gone from me, I read that when the days
Of a man are counted, and his business done,
There comes up the shore at evening, with the tide,
To the place where he sits, a boat --
And in the boat, from the place where he sits, he sees,
Dim in the dusk, dim and yet so familiar,
The faces of his friends long dead; and knows
They come for him, brought in upon the tide,
To take him where men go at set of day.
Then rising, with his hands in theirs, he goes
Between them his last steps, that are the first
Of the new life -- and with the ebb they pass,
Their shaken sail grown small upon the moon.

Often I thought of this, and pictured me
How many a man who lives with throngs about him,
Yet straining through the twilight for that boat
Shall scarce make out one figure in the stern,
And that so faint its features shall perplex him
With doubtful memories -- and his heart hang back.
But others, rising as they see the sail
Increase upon the sunset, hasten down,
Hands out and eyes elated; for they see
Head over head, crowding from bow to stern,
Repeopling their long loneliness with smiles,
The faces of their friends; and such go forth
Content upon the ebb tide, with safe hearts.

But never
To worker summoned when his day was done
Did mounting tide bring in such freight of friends
As stole to you up the white wintry shingle
That night while they that watched you thought you slept.
Softly they came, and beached the boat, and gathered
In the still cove under the icy stars,
Your last-born, and the dear loves of your heart,
And all men that have loved right more than ease,
And honor above honors; all who gave
Free-handed of their best for other men,
And thought their giving taking: they who knew
Man's natural state is effort, up and up --
All these were there, so great a company
Perchance you marveled, wondering what great ship
Had brought that throng unnumbered to the cove
Where the boys used to beach their light canoe
After old happy picnics --

But these, your friends and children, to whose hands
Committed, in the silent night you rose
And took your last faint steps --
These led you down, O great American,
Down to the winter night and the white beach,
And there you saw that the huge hull that waited
Was not as are the boats of the other dead,
Frail craft for a brief passage; no, for this
Was first of a long line of towering transports,
Storm-worn and ocean-weary every one,
The ships you launched, the ships you manned, the ships
That now, returning from their sacred quest
With the thrice-sacred burden of their dead,
Lay waiting there to take you forth with them,
Out with the ebb tide, on some farther quest.