It’s A Book!!

Book Reading and Signing, september 30, 2016, New Dominion Bookshop.

Book Reading and Signing, September 30, 2016, New Dominion Bookshop. Photo by Mark Rough.

Scattering Ashes, has been launched!! I had a great crowd on Friday night and the question and answer period could have gone on forever, but having done a few poetry reading in the past, I know it’s good to stop and leave the audience wanting more. From the calls and notes I’m receiving from those who were there, my reading and book talk were very much enjoyed.

Writing my book and getting it published has been a humbling and educational process. But I need to take some time to let it settle before I can truly say what it means to me. I loved the whole experience for sure, but I want to think about what the easiest part was, the hardest part, and how it will affect me in the future.

So far I’ve noticed that my sense of self-esteem has hit the top of the charts. I did it. I really did it. Who’d a thunk this highly sensitive, shy, introvert would actually share the details of her life with others in a book and enjoy doing so? How do I separate myself as an individual who wrote a book from the book itself? Am I the book or am I still Joan, who happens to have written a memoir? Why does it matter?

There are so many questions rolling around in my noggin and I haven’t had time to get to the end of the list just yet. Needless to say, I will be writing about all of this in coming blogs.

In the meantime check out my newsletter which was published yesterday morning. I’m giving away two signed copies, of Scattering Ashes, to those who send a comment and reply to my newsletter. I’ll be choosing the winners at random. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter now is a good time to do so. You can sign up at the top of this page on the right.

Here’s to life’s journeys and the learning! My love and best to you all!

Autumn Palette


Bright and early Tomorrow morning, Bill will undergo  complete shoulder replacement surgery. With one knee already done, many friends are calling him “The Bionic Man.” I wrote this poem for him back in 2005, and since it is fall and he’s on my mind as we step into another healing adventure together, I thought I’d share it with you.

Autumn Palette
for Bill

Across the river trees flare
yellow orange gold
the flow of water a painting
awash in late day light
ever changing in intensity
as ruffles of wind eddy the surface
invisible fingers at play

A walk we took years ago
before we became us
in woods of scarlet sugar maples
Vermont air crisp and clear
the lake before us blue shimmering
deep and endless as the sky
we wandered under
projecting our future together
on the white canvas
of a passing cloud

We were young and limber
ready to climb the mountains
flame red in the distance
never imagining this day
you and I burnished by time
settled on a river bank
reflecting in October light


The More Thing Change …

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem Artichoke

Yesterday I decided to look back through the first blog I kept. Entitled, Rivanna River Days, I started it as a record of what life was like living on the shores of the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir, where I resided at the time. I began this blog in the spring of 2006, many years before I began writing my memoir and a year before my mother died in 2007.  She was living with me at the time.

I found this piece that I wrote in September of 2008. I could have written it yesterday or last month or last year. I have to say I have no problem staying with my writing these days, but it’s interesting to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tending The Heart

Where have I been, you ask? I’ve been tending to myself …
My heart has been heavy with the vibrations of the exterior world …
It’s trying to hold its own … feeling grateful for all that I have …
The wonderful people I know …
Saddened for the state of this country … the violence in the world …
The hungry … the homeless …
And most of all for those who don’t see or feel the consequences for what they do.

It’s been hard for me to write anywhere about anything, including in my journal
that I normally jot in every day.
I’ve been saying a lot of prayers … asking lots of questions
And trying to stay as positive I can.

I know I’m not alone. There are many people feeling the same way.
I remind myself on a daily, sometimes hourly basis that I cannot control what is happening in this world
And that this too shall pass.
I take solace in meditation, the garden, living simply, and the gifts that each day brings.

Do you read back through your old journals or blog posts to see what has changed over the course of time?


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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My Book Cover Reveal!


Yes!  That’s it!  And I Love it!!

No, that’s not me.  That’s my mother. She was eighteen years old at the time.

What an exciting time this is. Now that I have a cover and a fresh manuscript back from the proof reader, it’s beginning to feel like my memoir is real. But still, I occasionally have to stop and ask myself if all of this is really happening. Had you asked me 5 years ago if I’d write a memoir and even have it published, I would have said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But, life is filled with surprises and this is one that I will celebrate for a long time. But this is only the beginning.

Today my words about my book and how I came to write it are over on my blog at She Writes and will be included in today’s She Writes Newsletter, as part of the Behind the Book series. I ended the post with these words saying why this could be an important book for many to read:

“SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, is my personal story of caring for my mother while searching for peace within myself and with my abusers.  It is also an important story. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 43.5 million of adult family caregivers care for someone 50+ years of age. The  US Census Bureau reported as of April, 2014, there were 76.4 million baby boomers. Clearly the problem of finding caregivers is growing. As is the need for family members to find ways of handling their own emotional trauma as they care for those who can no longer care for themselves. It is my hope that my story can be of help to those who are intending to care for their elders and/or those who may already be doing so.”

Please go over and read the whole post. You won’t be able to leave a comment unless you are a member, but you can certainly leave one here. I’d love to know what you think.