BOOK REVIEW – HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE

 

It’s been some time since I’ve posted regularly on my blog. I’m still around, still writing, and still reading. A friend lent me a gem of a book recently with the words, “I want this one back.” That meant only one thing–a gem sat waiting for me in on my “To Be Read” pile.

When I finished, it hit me. I miss telling others about the books I’ve read, especially if the book resonates with me. I love sharing and perhaps offering the gift of a lovely read to another inveterate reader.

Interested yet? If not, maybe some particulars will help.

Consider a familiar adage – you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

That’s the simple premise of this memoir and the realization of it by Carolyn Jourdan who grew up in a rural community in east Tennessee in the Appalachian Mountains. She’s the only child of the country doctor and his assistant wife, but she leaves the town to attend law school and later pursue a career as a high-powered attorney in D.C. When her mother suffers a heart attack and can’t assist in the good doctor’s office, Carolyn agrees to come home and fill in for her mother for a few days. After all, a rural doctor can’t shut his office doors, not even for a heart attack.

Life has a funny way of working even with the best plans, and the few days ends up being much longer. The book follows the four seasons of a year and at the end of that year, her mother hasn’t returned to the office, and Carolyn is still answering phones and making everyone comfortable in the waiting room while waiting to be seen by her father. From Washington attorney to office receptionist is a challenge because there is so much she doesn’t know about human nature and life.

The memoir  reads as if it’s a novel. The characters who enter the lobby of her father’s practice are quirky, intriguing, and funny. And they understand what is important in the life we’ve been handed. By the end of the year, she’s come away with some important knowledge that can only be learned by observing and living.

“We had to take what we were and what we had and do the best we could with them. There were no extra bonus points for visibility or magnitude. I’d always aimed for the big score, but now I understood better.”

Heart in the Right Place is a delightful read that reminded me about the important things. I found one of the characters plucked from the pages of real life to hold the key. I want to tattoo the words on the slate of my mind so I always remember them. To do the right thing by others doesn’t require money or even words. It only requires that we

SHOW UP

As with most things in life, it’s simple. Another character states, “The most important things don’t look like much.” It’s true. Showing up for another person doesn’t seem like much. It could be a card mailed, an errand run, a flower picked, a cookie baked, or even simpler. Hold the door open at the bank, grab a box for someone who can’t reach the top shelf at the grocery store, or give up a seat on the bus. It doesn’t look like much, but it means the world to the person on the receiving end.

About Carolyn Jourdan from her Amazon Author Page: USA Today, Audible, and 5-Time Wall Street Journal best-selling author of heartwarming memoir, biography, and mystery – Jourdan chronicles miracles, mayhem, and madcap moments in Appalachian medicine, as well as zany and touching interactions with wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Jourdan’s trademark blend of wit and wisdom, humor and humanity have earned her high praise from Dolly Parton and Fannie Flagg, as well as major national newspapers, the New York Public Library, Elle, Family Circle Magazine, and put her work at the top of hundreds of lists of best books of the year and funniest books ever.

Carolyn is a former U.S. Senate Counsel to the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Governmental Affairs. She has degrees from the University of Tennessee in Biomedical Engineering and Law. She lives on the family farm in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, with many stray animals.

 

WE LIVED IT AND LAUGHED

FINAL CoverIt gives me great pleasure to announce the release of We Lived It and Laughed – Tales of Chuluota, Florida by Mark Perrin. This book of personal essays recounts life in the seventies while growing up in rural Florida.

I ran into Mark about six weeks ago while I was sitting at a book booth in Tallahassee trying to sell books. He had a notebook with him, and he wanted to ask some questions about publishing. He said he had some true stories from his youth he wanted to publish. I mentioned that I was an editor as well as an author, and further, I could help him take his manuscript from Word to a published book.

And here we are a few weeks laters with those essays now published in a lovely book of humorous tales from a time and place very far removed from where most of us are today. I laughed out loud while working on the essays because I knew these people! I grew up at the same time 1,000 miles away in Michigan. But I lived in a small town where teenagers had to find their own fun or suffocate on boredom.

Congratulations to Mark and his perseverance and hard work to turn his stories into a wonderful chronicle of a time fast fading from memories and wholly unknown to the youth of today who fight boredom with electronics!

Here’s a little bit about the book:

Mark Perrin recounts the humorous parts of growing up in a small rural town in central Florida in

Mark Perrin recounts the humorous parts of growing up in a small rural town in central Florida in We Lived It and Laughed. Boredom, dysfunctional families, and testosterone equal tales bigger than life.

The characters who populate the stories rise to mythical stature created by a storyteller who recounts some true tall tales from decades ago. Through it all, the author’s dry sense of irony, comedic overtones, and casual style paint a portrait of young men who found a way to survive the perils of adolescence without much supervision.

Instead of resorting to violence or crime, and relying mostly on humor, the boys of Chuluota form their own tribe and find a way to make something out of nothing. All the while, they raise themselves and learn together how to survive by using ingenuity born of boredom.

This collection of reminiscences will transport you back to a time before technology, cell phones, and iPads. Lazy summer days spent devising ways to defeat the boredom of poverty and abandonment from their parents remind us all that humor and ingenuity can create heroes.

From row boat ski tows to brick wallpaper to dead sharks, We Lived It and Laughed entertains with humor and enlightens with honesty.

About Mark Perrin – Mark Perrin grew up in the small town of Chuluota in central Florida. He lived there from 1962 to 1985 and remained in that area for a few more years before moving to Wakulla County, Florida, near Crawfordville, in January 1988. The love of nature and history has been a constant in his life, and the area where he now lives is rich in both.

As a lover of history, he joined the local historical society shortly after moving to Wakulla County where he’s been on the board of directors for many years. The thought of preserving a piece of history was one of the factors that led to the writing and recording of these stories for We Lived It and Laughed.

Mark Perrin operates a small home improvement business. The flexibility of this occupation allows him to pursue the hobbies he enjoys, such as hiking in the surrounding nature, fishing in local waters, searching for old bottles, and using a metal detector in his rural environment.

Click here to purchase We Lived and Laughed

WE CARRY OUR HOMES WITH US – A CUBAN AMERICAN MEMOIR

IMG_0629I am so proud of my friend and colleague, Marisella Veiga, on the publication of  We Carry Our Homes with Us – A Cuban American Memoir. Yes, I do have a personal relationship with the author so perhaps my comments might be viewed as slanted. However, I can tell you her book is honest, raw, and triumphant. As someone who lived in the same town until I went away to college–thirty miles away–this book astounded me as I attempted to understand what it must have been like to move as much as the Veiga family did during Marisella’s formative years. Not only did they move, but they were ripped from their home only to become exiles in a foreign land where very few understood what it meant to be Cuban.

I’ve known Marisella for more than a decade, but I discovered I really didn’t know her heart and soul until I read her account of what it was like growing up as an exile from her homeland of Cuba. At three years old, she didn’t understand the ramifications of the plane ride from Havana to Miami with her mother and two brothers. Her father joined them later with only fourteen cents in his pocket and dim prospects for work in a city teeming with Cubans who’d escaped the Communist regime of Fidel Castro. Both of her parents were professionals: her mother was an optometrist, and her father a respected accountant. With three young children and a fourth on the way, they were placed with a host family in Minnesota–so far from their culture that even a far cry couldn’t reach the shores of the island just ninety miles away from the United States. But her father would be able to find work there, maybe not at the same professional level as he enjoyed in Cuba, but work in his field nonetheless.

There are parts that are heartbreaking, such as the story of the little Marisella not having any friends in school until the fourth grade, sitting isolated in the classroom in a world of silence because she did not yet speak English. She also looked different from the other students, where most of them hailed from northern European bloodlines. However, her descriptions of growing up in the United States of the 1960s in a community give a nostalgic longing for a time of innocence no longer possible in the age of social media exposure. The children formed their own communities. And the other Cuban families that came in the same program as the Veigas to Minnesota formed yet another, providing comfort in such a different place from Cuba.

I found myself crying, laughing, and cringing at some of her brutally honest explorations of her life of exile in Minnesota. She writes in the very beginning that, “People learn to live in exile–no matter where one sets up housekeeping–by experiencing it. Exile is a state of being that continues for most Cubans who live outside their country if they have left for political, not economic, reasons. It ends when Cuba embraces democracy.”

This statement alone let me know that I was reading about something vastly different from my own experience as a citizen of the United States.

Even though the family settles in Minnesota, movement continues as the family grows in size and in finances. By the age of four, she’d lived in five different places, and the moves continued while living in Minnesota.

The writing of this book took tremendous effort as my friend dug into the past and her feelings surrounding her exile. Through her experience, she learned not to place too much importance on material objects, and she learned to adapt and welcome change as one thing remained constant:

A place is called a home, no matter where the dwelling is situated, for one reason: the sanctuary of home is carried within each person. The material manifestation–trailer, apartment, or mansion–is secondary.

Marisella interviewed many of the folks she knew from the Minnesota days to write this book, and when it released in April, she returned for a book signing. Members of her family’s host family came to see her as did friends she made in the last few years they stayed there. After Marisella completed fifth grade, the family returned to Miami where they remained. Marisella returned to Minnesota for college to the place where her exile began but also where so many parts of her personality were formed. The writing of this book brought her full circle.

This memoir, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is an outstanding book that should be mandatory reading for all, especially those who find it difficult to embrace a culture different from their own. We Carry Out Homes With Us will open your heart and your mind.

Purchase Links 

Kindle

Paperback

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I had the pleasure of helping Marisella put together her Cuban Rice Classics cookbook several years ago. She’s a talented woman who does Cuban cooking demonstrations, speaks about her life of exile, and continues to write.

 

 

 

 

81jowbgkwpl-_ux250_1More about Marisella Veiga: Writer Marisella Veiga was born in Havana, Cuba. She was raised both in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Miami, Florida. Her writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Poets & Writers and Art in America. In 2004, she was given the Evelyn La Pierre Award in Journalism by Empowered Women International. She is a nationally syndicated columnist with Hispanic Link News Service. Many of these are recorded on a spoken word CD, Square Watermelons: Ten Essays on Living with Two Cultures available from Eclipse Recording Studio in St. Augustine. Many of her short stories, one of which won The Pushcart Prize Special Mention in Fiction, are in literary anthologies. Veiga’s essays also appear in Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education and Our Town magazines. Besides teaching part-time at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida writing, she has been giving Cuban cooking demonstrations at various venues around Florida.

 

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – MARGARET KELL VIRANY

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Canadian author Margaret Kell Virany, who writes romantic historical books based on her life and that of her parents. Her books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Voida love story, between an English young woman and a Canadian young man, set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.Kells cover pic

Welcome, Margaret. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer. How do you envision yourself in this role?

Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me. I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius, said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties:  the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love? 

If people don‟t get or give enough love, they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women, like my mother, came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What‟s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

“Virany‟s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn‟t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author

I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn‟t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it was book. There is an ancient concept of life being one‟s “book of days.” For dates and event, I leaned on my parents‟ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I discovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the “Kell‟ prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell‟ was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister‟s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book? 

I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page on my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling.

MargoncanoeAbout Margaret Kell Virany from Margaret:  Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s Cariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Click below for links to Margaret’s books and website:

Cozy Book Basics

Website

Amazon Author Central

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Book Review Friday – #Wild by Cheryl Strayed

WildI’m weird about the books I read. If something has become popular, a fad, an explosion, I’m reluctant to read or purchase. I don’t know what it is. I’ve never wanted to follow popular trends because I want to be the trend that is being followed. That’s a big confession for me to make. But in the past few months, I’ve finally caved on two books that everyone was telling me “You must read” or my favorite, “You’re a writer; you’ll love these.” The first was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (click here for my review), which I loved in a strange sort of way. But those who urged me to read it were right. It’s an excellent book even though the subject matter made me feel squeamish. That’s a good thing from my perspective.

The second time it happened was with the nonfiction book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. For two years, folks urged me to read this book, but I’m stubborn. It took watching an interview on 60 Minutes with Reese Witherspoon, who produced and stars in the movie, to give it a try. Once again, I read a book that made me squeamish. But it also made me feel something as a human being who’s lost too many close friends and relatives, and as a writer, who appreciates an exceptional tale told from the first person perspective.

I give Ms. Strayed extra gold stars for writing this book as a memoir. It means she’s writing her life and putting it out on the page for all of us to examine. It’s not her imagination–I hope, since she’s calling it a memoir–it’s her reality, and it’s raw, painful, and inspiring.

I kept thinking as I read it about the power of her words and about how brave she was. Yes, she was brave–and perhaps a bit naive and stupid–to set out to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail. She was alone and wholly inexperienced. She did it out of pure instinct, and I admire that. But even more, I was in awe of her ability to expose herself to us, the readers. She writes about her life in raw and rugged terms. She is honest about her failings, and the failings of those around her. There were times when I saw myself in her universal expression of what grief feels like. And when that happened, when I saw myself in her prose, I felt something else. I felt respect and awe of Cheryl Strayed as an author and as a fellow comrade. She knows how to reach in and pull all the innards out of an experience. She created the characters that peopled her journey in minute detail, so they were as real to me as they were to her on the PCT. That’s a rare quality for an author to achieve.

Of course, she had the outstanding setting to provide the backdrop for most of the story. But it was the interspersing of her personal details of how she found herself 6,000 feet above the ocean that makes this book compelling. The painful parts from her mother’s death to her divorce are all there while she makes her way from California to the Columbia River on the border between Oregon and Washington.

I want to thank Cheryl Strayed for writing such a phenomenal book. And I apologize that her popularity almost stood in the way of me reading it.

Pat on the OhioIt’s inspired me. I know I can’t hike that trail, but I can dream and plot about my escape on a boat for one long summer season, where my husband and I travel from Pittsburgh on the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois, where it meets the Mississippi. From there, we can go anywhere.

Author Wednesday – Lorna Lee

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday and my interview with Lorna Lee, the author of  Never Turn Back, a work of historical fiction that is based on a true story about the life of Lorna’s grandmother. She’s also published her memoir, How Was I Supposed to Know? The Adventures of a Girl Whose Name Means Lost.

NeverTurnBack

Welcome, Lorna. I love something that one of my heroes claimed about her writing. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Did this happen to you with this book?

Never Turn Back is a perfect example of the subject choosing me. The character is based on my maternal grandmother and her grim life. She and I could not be more different in personality. I remember her as a controlling, stubborn, mostly miserable woman who trudged through her days with a yoke of duty burdening her. She sighed a great deal. Conversely, I try to find the positive in people and any circumstance that comes my way. Her story, however, is a compelling one—one that my family urged me to tell (even as fiction because she kept too many secrets for me to weave a complete narrative based only on the selected stories she revealed). When I told her story to friends at social gatherings, amazement and intrigue were always the response. “Lorna, you have to write a book about her!” And so I did.

It sounds as if you didn’t have much choice. Is there a message you try to convey to your readers?

While the humorous voice of my memoir is so different from the serious tone of the novel, both books are about human perseverance through seemingly impossible circumstances. My grandmother and I certainly approached life differently in terms of our attitudes and had different challenges to face, but we both had multiple tragedies in our lives, with which we coped in our own ways. My books are about the unsinkable human spirit.

You’ve written a memoir and an historical novel. What are your plans for your next books? 

So far, I’ve written two books in two different genres. Either I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or I want to be known as a “genre-jumper!” I’m seriously contemplating writing pure fiction next. It would be a murder mystery with a humorous twist—quirky characters in outlandish situations.

That would be quite a leap, but I operate that way, too. I’m always trying to challenge myself as an author. Since you’ve published two books, you must have reviews, so what’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

Since Never Turn Back was my first stab at fiction (although based on a true story), getting feedback about not knowing which events or characters were real and which were fictional was high praise. I knew I succeeded in my goal at writing believable fiction.

We all get them, so we might as well talk about them. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Some bad reviews are simply because the reader didn’t care for the book’s subject matter or characters. If that’s the case, remind yourself that, no matter how much you want to, you can never please all of the people all of the time. As writers, we must stay true to our characters and our stories. If the bad review is of your work (i.e., hard to follow plot or unnatural dialogue), see if there is anything you can learn from the review to improve your writing. As humans, we crave the accolades; but as wordsmiths and storytellers, we learn quite effectively from our mistakes if we are willing to keep an open mind.

Excellent advice. So tell us the one sentence pitch for Never Look Back?

“Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove; she also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.”

Very intriguing. I love the contrasts. How did you choose the title? 

My grandmother was a very stubborn woman. When she decided to leave her home and family in Finland as a young woman, she left and never turned back. When she left Paris to come to a very disappointing America, she never considered going back. Her pride stopped her. The title came from what must have been her life’s guiding credo. I knew the title before I started writing the first line of the book.

Is the book traditionally or self-published? 

This book, like my memoir, is self-published. Before I wrote my memoir, I knew nothing about the publishing aspect of writing. I thought that once you wrote the manuscript and got an agent to represent you, your work as a writer was done. Ha! When my memoir manuscript was nearing completion, I started doing my homework about publishing. I discovered that even if I could get an agent interested in my manuscript, I would have the lion’s share of marketing responsibility even though they would get the lion’s share of any royalties. Yes, there is more prestige associated with being traditionally published. But there is more freedom as an Indie author. If I have to do the marketing anyway, I decided to try self-publishing and avoid the inevitable waiting for rejection letters. My skin is too thin for all of that anyway.

I thought the same thing after I finished my first novel. I’ve gone both routes, and I’ll take the Indie route any day. I’m so glad you stopped by today. Your first attempt at fiction sounds very interesting, and I hope you’ll stop by again when you get that murder mystery written.

LornaAbout Lorna Lee:  In her former life as a sociology professor, Lorna published many academic and research papers. Creative writing is her new path since her premature disability retirement in 2006 because to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.

Never Turn Back is her second book and first novel. Her first book is a memoir entitled How Was I Supposed to Know? That book was awarded Best Memoir, 2012 by the Adirondack Writing Center in their Annual Literary Award Contest. In 2010, she was a finalist in the memoir genre of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest with her short story, Monkey Business.

Lorna currently lives with the man of her dreams and the dog of her dreams in the home of her dreams in the Portland, Oregon area. She keeps herself busy by writing, quilting, walking, meditating, and blogging.

Links:

Blog: Lorna’s Voice 

Never Turn Back page on Lorna’s Voice

How Was I Supposed to Know? page on Lorna’s Voice

Never Turn Back on Amazon

How Was I Suppose to Know? on Amazon

 

Book Review Friday – Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant

MBBCover2014Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant by Marsha Roberts

Once you get the title, you’ll understand the lovely and lively book that Marsha Roberts has written about the ups and downs of her life. I’ve never met Marsha, but after reading her memoir of parables, I feel as if she’s one of my dear friends.

The book is uplifting—more so than any other thing I’ve read lately—and inspiring. She’s the master of the positive spin, but in a way that makes me feel, “Hey, I can do that! I can create miracles in my life. I can have a faith that is visible and tangible.”

I loved so many things about the book that I’ve bookmarked pages and will use them as my nudge to stop feeling sorry for myself when things don’t always go right. Ms. Roberts writes, “I also believed in miracles. Not as some remote ethereal possibility, but as a real part of my life.” I started remembering the miracles of my life when I read that. I decided those are the times I want to use as my touchstones.

Her story about her father “fixing” the figurines that she had painstakingly made for the people she loved broke my heart in one way, but also showed me that anything can be fixed. Her honesty about her relationship with her mother is another heart breaker until that relationship is eventually “fixed” as well. Maybe it wasn’t done in the way we’d prefer, but we don’t get to choose the way in which our miracles occur.

She shares a profound statement made by her husband Bob that has resonated with me weeks after finishing the book. He tells her during at time of crisis in their lives, “darkness exists by default; light has to be generated.” Just as the sun generates our daylight, it’s up to each of us to step out of the darkness or nothingness into the light, even if we have to generate it each and every moment when we rise.

That’s what this book does—it makes me giddy with joy that I am the one who generates the light in my life, and as Ms. Robert proclaims at the end of the book, “Miracles are inevitable.”

Click here for my interview with Marsha Roberts on Author Wednesday.

Author Wednesday – Marsha Roberts

???????????????????????????????Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m excited to introduce you to Marsha Roberts if you’ve not already had the pleasure. Marsha has penned a book that is not only delightful to read, but it is an inspiration to all of us who’ve never quite fit into the “mold” set before us by society. Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant is the title of her funny, touching, and loving story story of her life told as parables for living a happy and fulfilling life.MBBCover2014

I’m so happy you’re here to talk about your writing, Marsha. I’m enjoying your book, and it’s always a great honor and pleasure to get to know the authors behind the words. I have a very specific vision of myself as a writer–that’s why I use the photo of the old manual typewriter for Author Wednesday–so I always like to ask authors about their visions. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

Great question! I think of myself as a spinner of tales; it’s just that my tales happen to be true, pulled from my life – good times, bad times, adventures, hopes and dreams, and dogs! Telling someone about yourself with total honesty can be and should be very personal, almost intimate. When I write my stories, I imagine the reader sitting across from me, and I feel like I’m talking directly to my companion, the reader.

You’ve accomplished that very well. Reading your book makes me feel as if I’m sitting at the kitchen table with you, sharing a cup of coffee. Did you try to convey a particular theme to your readers?

My main theme is how incredibly magical life is. In my experience, there are times in life when the magic is so clear and vivid that it just about slaps you across the face! Then there are those times where it seems to have totally disappeared. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that we forget how miraculous our very existence is. I know, I’ve done it many times. My book is about the crazy amount of faith that it takes to find the magic (the joy!) in our lives every day. Finding it and keeping it.

That is such an important message for everyone. I’m curious about the title. How did you choose it?

HA! I know it is an insanely long title! OK, it happened like this. First off, it was called The Parable of the Tomato Plant because at a very low point in my life, I found this little story I had written about the unlikely gift of tomato plants from a surly neighbor and the unexpected lesson that came out of it. I wrote it down on a few legal pad pages and tucked it away in a drawer I rarely used. I totally forgot about it, but it was waiting for me and was there at the precise moment I needed encouragement. One of life’s many little miracles. That “parable” was the beginning of my book, but it grew into something much bigger than I had initially intended. In a way, it had a life of its own. When I finished the first draft, it was like God was tugging at my sleeve, “Marsha, it’s not enough, you have to go deeper, you have to share more.” And so I did and that’s when it became Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant.

I love it. After reading some of the book, I think I know where the “mutinous” part originates, but please share with others why you used that particular word.

The little girl on the cover? That’s me. When I came across that photograph, the first word that came to mind was ~ mutinous!

Yes, that certainly is conveyed in that look. Are you going to write more in this genre?

Absolutely. I definitely plan to write two more books in the “Mutinous Boomer” Series, but not just yet. I spent most of my adult life as a producer, first with films and videos, but mainly stage. My husband is Bob Rector, who you have also interviewed about his incredible book Unthinkable Consequences. He wrote and directed our theatrical production Letters from the Front, and I produced it. This beloved show toured American military bases all over the world for fifteen years. In fact, a lot of the stories in my book revolve around the miraculous nature of that project. Letters has been on leave for a while (which gave us both time to write our books!), but now it’s time for it to be on active duty again. The show has always been described as “healing,” and we know that the troops, their families, and the veterans need us now more than ever. And we miss them. In the coming months, my focus will be on getting our show on the road again. Which will give me more stories to tell!

I loved Bob’s book. And what a wonderful project to be able to put together as a couple. You two are the golden couple! We all get those reviews, so tell me the best thing that’s ever been said about your book from a reviewer?

Well, if you mean an “official” review, Kirkus Reviews called my book “An optimistic look at the magic of life.” Perfect! But, if you are referring to reader reviews, there’s the one who said she loved my book so much she read it twice and the guy who called it “5* Soul Candy!” But, I think the one who summed it up the best was author Diane Harman who wrote, “This is simply a wonderful book which offers hope to everyone who has ever struggled with almost any human condition. Confessions belongs on the nightstand. When hope is not at hand, it can be.”

I was just thinking that this book is a wonderful one for restoring faith. I’ve been bookmarking like crazy. What else do you want readers to know about Confessions?

I’m very pleased to announce that Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant book is now available as an audiobook! For many years, the star of Letters From The Front was a wonderful actress by the name of Della Cole. Della and I have traveled the globe together entertaining American troops. I share some of these adventures in my book, and since Della was actually there during many of them, she is able to bring a personal warmth to the narration that you rarely hear in an audiobook. Just like you said eariler, reviewers have often commented that my style of writing is like sitting down with an old friend, sharing life lessons over a cup of coffee. Della’s approach to the narration definitely captures that tone, and I couldn’t be happier that she’s my “voice.” She’s fabulous!

That sounds like a wonderful partnership. Marsha, it’s been a pleasure to have you stop by today. I wish you and Bob success on all your future endeavors and hope you’ll both keep in touch.

Thanks so much for having me here on Author Wednesday, Patricia. You are a lovely host!

MRoberts-HS-7-14About Marsha Robert: After years of producing Corporate Theatre for clients such as IBM and Coca-Cola, Marsha Roberts developed, produced and marketed Letters From The Front, the only professional theatrical production to tour military bases around the world. This heartfelt show touched hundreds of thousands of lives, toured stateside and abroad for fifteen years, was the first play ever to perform at the Pentagon and became known as The World’s Most Decorated Play. The daunting process of getting this never-been-done-before production off the ground and onto a worldwide stage gave her a keen awareness of what it takes to overcome life’s obstacles and find the miraculous in the commonplace. She shares many of her experiences in her inspirational memoir Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant.

Links:
Website: http://www.mutinousbabyboomer.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007H0RS60
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marsha-Roberts-Author/218916171540114
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MutinousBoomer
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037984.Marsha_Roberts
Blog: http://mutinousboomer.wordpress.com/

#New Release – Odyssey to Myself

Odyssey to Myself is now a book of essays from my travels during the past decade. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Click here for Kindle version

Click on cover for Kindle version

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Click on cover for paperback

Odyssey to Myself is a world travel guide for trips to Morocco, Italy, Panama, Chile, and down Route 66 in the United States. The compilation of essays show Muslim women dressed in hijabs and working in Casablanca. Moroccan history and food provide a colorful backdrop as the author explores her place in the world.

About Odyssey to Myself:

Take a trip to Casablanca, Marrakech, Tuscany, Bocas del Toro, and Santiago as P.C. Zick writes about her experiences traveling outside the confines of her small world. Observations about life and culture bring to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the ancient alleyways of Fes, the masters of Italy, and the strategic location of Panama. The people of Morocco, Italy, Panama, and Chile come to life through the experiences of the author as she absorbs the cultures so different from her own.

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A Couscous Luncheon in Casablanca

From Odyssey to Myself:

“Traveling removes us from our small safe environment and thrusts out into the world. When I travel, I realize what a tiny ripple my life is in the ocean’s constant waves. A few months ago, I had to endure a full body MRI that lasted more than two hours. I almost swooned when the nurse told me how long I’d be in that long encompassing tunnel. She recommended I remain awake because if I moved after falling asleep, they’d have to pull me out and begin again. I did not want that to happen. My brain fought against any touch of claustrophobia as they closed me in the tube and sent me inside the machine. I frantically searched through the files in my brain. With a little prayer for help, I went into the tube and decided to travel in my memories back to the most important trips of my life.

The first trip I remembered was my visit to Morocco in 2004. I knew it was a watershed year as many things had been happening in my life, and I went on the trip to heal and find direction. I began with my arrival in Casablanca in the early morning hours after flying all night from New York City. It came back so vividly I could even smell and feel the air of my travels during a magical two weeks. Then I started on Italy from 2005, where my daughter and I went for a month to celebrate her graduation from college. I’d only gotten through the first two days when I heard a voice say they were pulling me out of the tunnel. I cursed silently, thinking I must have moved as I remembered walking the streets of Milan and marveling at all the beautiful shoes.

“You were a great patient,” the nurse said. “It didn’t take quite two hours, but almost. You’re done.”

That’s the beauty of travel. It removes us from our world into a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, noises, and textures. This book explores some of those experiences as I embarked on an odyssey to find myself during one of the darkest decades of my life.”

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Drinking from the fountain in Assisi

Author Wednesday – Carol Bodensteiner

???????????????????????????????Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Carol Bodensteiner. Carol released her first novel, Go Away Home, this past month, and she’s stopped by to talk a little bit about writing this World War I-era novel set in rural eastern Iowa. Her first book, Growing Up Country, is a memoir of growing up in Iowa in the 1950s. It’s so nice to have you visit today, Carol. Congratulations on publishing your first novel. Tell us about Go Away Home.Go Away Home Revised Ebook Final Cover Medium What’s the one sentence pitch for this work of historical fiction?

Thanks for inviting me to Author Wednesday, P.C. Go Away Home is the story of a young woman’s quest for independence and the right to decide her own future set against a twentieth century backdrop when options for women were limited yet social change was occurring and the Great War was on the horizon.

What is the main message you wanted to convey in this novel?

Go Away Home explores the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices as clear-cut, as we often hope they are, and that when confronted with the conflict between dreams and reality we learn there are tradeoffs. To get one thing, we often must give up something equally important.

We don’t really grow up until we’re confronted with those gray areas in life. This lesson is an important one to address. Tell us how you came up with the idea for Go Away Home.

Ever since I was a small child and learned that my grandfather died of the Spanish flu in 1918, I’ve been fascinated by my connection to that major world event. In a way my novel creates a life for the man I never knew and for the grandmother I only knew as a stern old woman. Since I never asked my grandmother a single question about my grandfather and their lives together, the story is entirely fiction.

I did that in my last novel with my grandfather. It was a way for me to create the grandfather I wanted. I’m glad you were able to do this in your fiction as well. Since this is set one hundred years ago, what type of research did you do? 

My research covered everything from photo studios, clothing, apprenticeships, boarding houses, electricity and telephones, to attitudes toward German immigrants during World War I. I roamed the Living History Farms, the State Historical Society Library, and the stacks at the public library. I spent hours with an uncle who grew up on a farm pre-electricity and with a high school classmate whose family owns a rural telephone company. I found on-line issues of Kodak magazines for photographers and YouTube videos about driving a Model T. I couldn’t have dreamed up things half as interesting as the reality I found through my research.

I was impressed with the wide range of issues you tackled in Go Away Home. I think it’s very interesting that YouTube helped you learn about the Model T. I know that both of your books are set in the same place in Iowa. What role does setting play in your novel?

Setting is critical to the story, representing one of the basic choices my main character Liddie faces. She grows up on a farm and though she wants desperately to get to the city with all the excitement and opportunities that represents, her connection to the farm and the kind of life she had there is stronger than she realizes.

I feel a strong connection to place myself and find conveying place is important to my writing. In addition to the larger “city vs. country” settings, there are smaller places very important to the story. Some readers have commented that the grove, which Liddie retreats to, is almost like another character.

I enjoyed the process Liddie went through in her discovery of what she really wanted in life. It’s a timeless study of maturing from a child to a woman. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

I have so many, but here’s one. Liddie relishes life and keeps adding more to her plate. In the effort to juggle everything, she makes a serious mistake. She hopes her employer won’t notice, but of course she does and calls Liddie out on it. While Liddie is ashamed of how she initially tries to hide the problem, she stands up and takes responsibility. A real growth moment for her.

I related to that moment. You captured the feelings perfectly. I’ve been there so I was rooting for Liddie all the way. What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

I think the best thing someone could tell me is that they were touched by the characters and the story. That would mean they felt the story was well told, which was my goal in the first place. The second best thing is that they came away from the book knowing more about life in the early twentieth century.

You scored on both counts with me. The characters have stayed with me after finishing the book, and I learned a few things about the life my father (born in 1904) and my grandparents might have lived. I hope you’ll come back and visit when you publish your next novel.

Thanks for letting me share my stories with your readers.

You’re very welcome, Carol. I enjoyed getting to know you a little bit better, and I enjoyed reading Go Away Home.

Be sure to watch for Book Review Friday and my review of Carol’s historical novel, Go Away Home.

BodensteinerCAbout Carol Bodensteiner – Carol is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published her memoir Growing Up Country in 2008. 9780979799709-207x300Go Away Home is her debut novel.

Links (Click below)

Go Away Home is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook.

Click here to read the first chapters now.

Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook.

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