from left to right: Annie Tucker, Brooke Warner, Katrina Anne Willis, and myself.

from left to right: My editor Annie Tucker, Brooke Warner, my publisher,  Katrina Anne Willis, and myself.

I Arrived in Chicago last Tuesday afternoon and spent the evening trying not to worry about the next day at BEA. I’m not a crowd person and dislike noisy places. I’d been told that Book Expo America was a bellybutton to bellybutton kind of event, so I lived with that expectation overnight and into Wednesday morning. Not being good enough to be there kinds of thoughts kicked the cement mixer in my gut up several levels the next morning as the cab I’d hailed drew closer to McCormick Place, the huge convention center where I would spend a good part of my day.

Up two flights of escalators the crowd seemed tiny. But BEA wasn’t open to the public yet. I breathed deeply and told myself, I can do this. After registering for my badge I set out to find the She Writes Press booth where I’d finally meet my publisher Brooke Warner, and the community of women authors I am now a part of. Brooke gave us some ideas on how we could welcome those who visit the booth, what to look for as we explored the convention floor looking for others whose services we might want to use, and how not to be overly pushy pitching our books. After a quick lunch with several of the other authors I arrived back at the booth ready to be available to those interested in She Writes Press and the books they publish, most especially mine. There was still not much of a crowd.

I sat at small round table with two other authors, Linda Kass and Jennifer Dwight. Linda’s book, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by her mother’s life, and describes Tasa Rosinski’s life and escape as a Jew from Eastern Poland in 1943. It was the recipient of the 2016 Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction at the Independent Publisher Book Awards. BookList says, it ”depicts a heartbreaking time with great sensitivity and detail.” It was published just weeks ago and is available wherever books are sold.

Jennifer Dwight’s book, The Tolling of Mercedes Bell, is a thriller that the San Francisco Book Review calls, “An unforgettable page-turner.” Suspense Magazine says it’s “Full of surprises with impressive twists.” It won two finalist medals at the 2016 Indie Next Generation Book Awards in the categories of Suspense and Thriller. Published on May 3rd, it also is available in bookstores and on line.

We spent an hour and half together welcoming those who showed interest in our books and She Writes Press. The crowd was still unimpressive at 2:30 when several other authors came to take our places at the table. I began wondering if my crowd phobia was a figment of my imagination and whether BEA was going to be what I had expected it to be.

I slept in on Wednesday morning and spent time with Bill. This was our first real trip together since his knee replacement this past January. We had several lovely meals with friends we hadn’t seen in some twenty years recalling what life was like back in the day. And while I was off having a ball at the publisher’s dinner on Thursday night, Bill took in a play he’d wanted to see for a long time. It was very relaxing to be away from home without the phone ringing and my endless to do list shouting at me in the background. I could hardly contain my excitement at being there amongst all those writers, publishers, and industry people. I finally felt like a real author.

Friday morning, the last day of BEA, I was back at the booth at 9 AM and spent two hours with author Katrina Anne Willis, as people came and went asking questions about our books. Katrina’s book, Parting Gifts, a novel, was published in April, and is the story of three sisters who pull their lives together through tragedy.  Karen Lynch, author of Good Cop, Bad Daughter: Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officer, says “Parting Gifts is a rare treasure, the sort of book that leaves the reader attached to the characters long after finishing the final page.”

I was delighted by a visit from The Best Editor in the Whole World, Annie Tucker, with whom I loved working through the developmental and copy edits of my book. It was such a pleasure to finally meet her in-person. If there is another book in me, I’d hire her again in a heartbeat.

After my booth duty I took a walk around the convention floor and finally found the crowds as people lined up for books being signed by the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Richard Russo, and others. At other booths publishers and authors held up their books, approaching me as I passed by, wanting to give them away for free. I imagine it was not only about getting their books out to the public but also about not wanting to lug them home again. When my head began to pulse from the noise and crowds, I packed up and returned to my hotel for a late lunch and a nap.

It was truly a fabulous trip and I’m so glad I talked myself into taking the plunge. I’m still processing everything I learned about selling books, myself, and how I can operate in conditions I don’t normally seek out without making myself a basket case. It was an exciting hands-on learning experience that I’ll never forget. If God be willing and the creek don’t rise, I plan on being there again next year.

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In The Company With Writers

Mary Gottschalk, Carol Bodensteiner, and Me

Mary Gottschalk, Carol Bodensteiner, and Me

I love all of my friends and enjoy spending time with them no matter who they are or what they do for work. But I especially love being in the company of writers. Last week I had the privilege of spending time with two writers with whom I have communicated on the internet but had never met in person. I’ve read at least one of the books they’ve each written and in that reading found myself connected with them through their use of the written word.

On their way to a writer’ retreat on Chincoteague from Iowa, they honored me with a two night visit. It was enough time for me to validate that intuitive voice that told me, “You’d like these women.” And I did. Over glasses of wine, good food, and lots of writing talk I found myself enjoying every minute. Although I was unable to go with them on a tour of Monticello, I did join them for a fascinating historical tour of the University of Virginia and how Thomas Jefferson, with difficulty, put together what is today the University of Virginia.

I’ve read one of each of their books, both novels, and now I have their memoirs to help me get to know them even better. Mary Gottschalk’s, A Fitting Place, is the story of a woman recently deserted by her husband, who is looking for aIMG_0133 relationship to fill in the empty hole that her husband has left in her life. That this relationship is with another woman, speaks of the complications that life brings when we don’t take the time to get to know ourselves and what we want and need to live an authentic life.

Carol Bodensteiner’s novel, Go Away Home, is the story of young woman who has grown up on a farm in Iowa in the early 1900’s, as she begins to define herself and her need to see and experience living in a wider world of employment and self discovery. Both books are delightful reads, and I look forward to reading Mary’s memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam, about her trip sailing halfway around the world, and Carol’s, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. If you are looking for great reads, pick up their books and get to know them for yourselves through their written words. You are in for a treat.

I will be taking some time off to whittle away my long list of Have To’s for the next ten or so days. I will be back on April 1st, with my newsletter which will include an excerpt from my soon to be published memoir. And I will be back here on my blog on April 5th.

I hope you are enjoying the spring as much as I am. As I walk among the newly blooming shrubs and trees, I see the promises of new life that this season brings to us.

The Necessity Of Water

“Happy is he who is awakened by the cool song of the stream, by a real voice of living nature. Each new day for him has the quality of birth.”
Gaston Bachelard

The South Fork Rivanna River

The South Fork Rivanna River

I’ve always been drawn to the water. Living on Long Island as a kid I was at the beach almost every day during the summer months. My last home there was located on a high tide inlet where, despite my difficult teen years, the presence of the water helped with my constant anxiety. We had a small skimmer with an outboard motor, behind which I learned to waterski. We gathered clams, oysters, and mussels that thrived in the sand, or the rocks along the shore. My youngest brother, Reid, a born naturalist, constantly wore a life preserver before he could swim. He caught tiny crabs and any other creatures he found in tide pools. We filled a glass tank with salt water from the sound and populated it with starfish, barnacles, clams, snails, small fish, and a host of other creatures we caught in our own watery back yard.

When I moved to Vermont after I graduated from high school, I missed the salt air, but there were plenty of lakes, ponds, and streams to jump into. And later here in Virginia I would spend ten years living on the banks of the South Fork Rivanna River. My mother spent most of her last seven years living there with Bill and me. Watching the daily movements and moods of the river, the birds, beavers, and otters kept me from totally losing my mind as I tried to help make Mom’s life as painless as possible. I know it also helped her and Bill as well.

Getting out on the water in my kayak was always a blessing. Alone in the sunshine, I often just drifted along, taking deep breathes. Some mornings found me totally overwhelmed not knowing how to manage my own life while taking care of Mom. I’d simply sit in my tiny yellow boat, head bowed to my lap, crying. Back on land, I felt peaceful, and knew the steps I had to take in order to make things somewhat easier, at least for the moment.


Last week I heard a fascinating interview with Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On , or Underwater Can Make You Happier. He proves what I’ve always intuitively known about water, but always thought it was just me … that the activity of our brain actually changes when we are close to or on water. Just listening to waves crash to shore can be a cure-all.

I was reminded of the week I recently spent on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Bill and I stayed in a rental home directly on the sound where I watched a great blue heron fishing each morning. We saw magnificent sunsets in the evening and twice a day, I took my dogs, Sam and Max for an ocean side beach walk, where they explored and rolled in all of the luscious, smelly things that had washed up on the shore. There were no deadlines, no phone calls, no have-to-do-now-things to keep me from just letting go. Without any effort, I slipped into a completely relaxed mode. I took naps. I ate seafood. I read books, and sat on the shore watching the water. I wanted to stay there forever.

It had been several years since our last vacation by the sea and I’d been feeling a pressing need to get to the water where I knew I’d be able to let go and untangle my thoughts and feelings about what was happening in my life. When I returned home, I was a completely new person, full of energy and ready to jump back into life.

Now reading Nichols’ book, I know that being on the water is a basic necessity for everyone, even if it’s only for one day or an hour. Just as our bodies need to rest, we absolutely must allow our brains to switch channels and rest. Nichols shows that soaking in a tub, or swimming in a pool can do the same thing for the brain as the ocean.

We spent 9 months adrift and growing in our mothers’ watery wombs. Without it we wouldn’t be alive. If we don’t continuously hydrate our bodies, we die. Taking time  to be near or in the water is the natural thing to do. Without that we’ll certainly have a much more difficult life.


I finished up this visual journal piece while I was at the beach and later posted it in my first newsletter. I had painted the pages before I left for the Outer Banks, not knowing that they were illustrating my overwhelming  need to be near the water.

How does water fit into your life?

My next free newsletter will be sent out on November 1st.  To have it automatically delivered to your inbox sign up at the top of the page on the right hand side. Simply enter your first name and email address which always remain private, then click go.  

A Letter to My Mother: Posthumous Reconciliation? And A Book Give Away

bonnetstrings-1Always interested in reading about other writers’s spiritual journeys, I recently picked up a copy of Saloma Miller Furlong’s second memoir, Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds. I just finished reading it and highly recommend you take a look at it.

Next week, one of my readers who leaves a comment on this page, will have a chance to receive a free copy of that book. Just leave a comment. I’ll pick a name at random and perhaps you will be notified that Saloma’s book is on it’s way to you.

Currently, Saloma is at work on a letter to her mother in book form,  in which  she tries to reconcile with her mother, who is now dead. Both Saloma and I have had difficult mothers to deal with during our lives. It is through this new writing, that Saloma is working her way to understanding and forgiving a mother, who like mine, used her children as scapegoats.

Without further ado, I welcome and thank Saloma for being my guest today and sharing her story. 

I have seen Joan around the online world several times. I decided it was time we “meet,” after reading about her incredible journey. Though I have not cared for an aging parent, I can relate to Joan’s story in many ways. I eagerly await the publication of her book. I am honored to be here today. Thank you, Joan, for hosting me.

We’ve all heard the bittersweet stories of people reckoning with their mortality when they are about to leave this world. They took stock of their lives and asked to speak with someone with whom they’ve not spoken to for years. In their waning days or hours, reconciliation and forgiveness happen. The bitter of the story is all those wasted years when reconciliation could have happened. The sweet of the story is that reconciliation did happen.

When my mother was dying, I kept hoping she would come to the place of needing reconciliation, when she would gather her sons and daughters around her and deal with any unfinished business with each of us, alone.

I was hoping there would be a time when she would let her guard down, so that I could tell her how I’ve had a hard time reconciling my memories of her when I was small and innocent from those when I was in my teens.

I know Mem loved me when I was little. I remember her bathing me in the galvanized tub in the living room in winter. After the bath, she would sit me on her big, soft lap, wrap me in a warm towel she had warmed by the woodstove, dry me off, and then dress me in the fresh-smelling clothing she had laid out for me. I remember standing on a stool, helping her knead bread. I remember being terrified of leaving her when I started Kindergarten.

I also remember the sound of her solid footsteps from the time I was a six, and had just said something she perceived as backtalk. Those footsteps would go to the china cabinet, where she would take down the latest whip or leather belt. She would stand there and in her most forceful voice, demand that I, “come here.”

I could not run. I could not hide. I could not resist that voice. I had to step over to her, where she would raise my Amish dress and slam that whip or belt across the backs of my legs, until I thought I would lose my mind from the overpowering pain.

When Mem lay dying, I wanted to hear her admit that she had been taking out her own frustrations on me when she whipped me. That she had harmed me, instead of “doing it for my own good.” I wanted to hear her say, “I am so sorry.”

But that is not what happened. Mem told us not to cling, and said it was her time to go. It seemed that she couldn’t duck out of this world fast enough. There was no chance of reconciling with her. Even before that day, she did not want to dig into the past. “For what good would it do?” she would say.

When I said my last good-byes to my mother, I told her that I would think of her in her heavenly home, and love her always. I wrote her a letter the night she was dying, because I could not be by her side. When I read it now, it sounds like I had no unresolved issues with her. However nine years later, I realize I’ve never reconciled the mother who was so nurturing and caring, with the one who was so harsh and cruel.

In an attempt to reconcile with Mem, I am writing a letter to her. I sift through memories and reflect on them. I do this, not knowing “what good it will do.” I don’t know if I will have a better understanding of her, but that is my hope. I like to think that there is still time to find resolution, even though she is not here in person.

So far, I find the act of writing to be powerful. Instead of sitting down in the inner reaches of my unconscious, I am recalling the past, allowing it to surface, one piece at a time. I am examining my memories of Mem, my relationship with her, and ultimately, my life.

As I write this, I don’t yet know who my audience is. Right now, that is not as important to me as doing the writing. Maybe I will decide to publish it. Or maybe someday one of my sons or grandchildren will find it, and at least learn something about their lineage.

I cried when I read the quote, by Christina Baldwin, that Joan uses at the top of her home page. I recognized it as the compelling reason for why I feel the need to write down my memories. “Making story of our family history doesn’t mean we change the realities of our forebears’ lives … we don’t turn a thief into a pillar of virtue … but we learn to carry the story differently so the lineage can heal.” What a beautiful thing to hope for: “for the lineage to heal.” What more is there?

Are there issues with your mother you wish to come to terms with? Do you think it is ever too late?


dsc_0017Saloma Miller Furlong is the author of two books, Why I Left the Amish and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds. Her story is featured in the PBS documentaries “The Amish” and “The Amish: Shunned” on American Experience. You can read more of Saloma Furlong’s biography by following the link.



Finding Forgiveness While Writing Memoir

DSC00291.JPGHi Folks,
I’m over at Kathy Pooler’s, Memoir Writer’s Journey, today with a piece about  how I found forgiveness for my mother as I wrote my memoir, ME, MYSELF, AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate. and Healing.  I’m working on the second draft right now. As soon as that’s done, I’ll ship it off to a developmental editor.

I plan on being back here next Tuesday, July 29th, with a follow up post to, Is There A Robot In Your Future?.