Celebrating A New Life


I never dreamt in a million years that this day would come.  I’ve been in labor for six long years and today, SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, has officially been born.  Someone asked me yesterday, how it feels to have accomplished this magical feat, and all could say was, “It’s unreal.”

I’ve written a book of two-hundred and thirty-six pages, and I can’t find words to describe how I’m feeling? Humpf! But I know I’m not alone. Every author who pens a book and sees it through to publication is filled with pride and are sometimes wordless when it comes to describing the feeling of having done it.

I can tell you this: I am excited. I am proud of myself. I’ve done something I never thought I would or could do. And I did it!  If I can write a book and get it published, I can do just about anything!

Shall I go for another?  We’ll see.  I have some ideas, but first I must raise the book I’ve just given birth to and send her off into the world.

Please check out my guest blog post over at Create Write Now.

If you’ve read my book or intend to, I’d appreciate it you could write an honest review over on Amazon and Goodreads.  It helps us authors when the word gets out.  Thank you!


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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At Sixes And Sevens

IMG_0183I’m in one of those in-between places. You know— when you don’t know what to do next or where to start.

The Advanced Reader Copies of my book arrived a few days ago. I need to reread my words again one more time and check for typos. I have a great postcard design with my book cover and a terrific blurb on the front being printed now. I’m working on getting my website updated and plan to do some advance writing for this blog and my newsletter. I’d also like to submit a few personal essays to magazines on and off line to bring attention to my memoir. I’m so wired with excitement that some nights I have a hard time falling asleep.

But on the other hand, it’s spring. The desire to write and do what needs doing in theIMG_0178 studio is being drowned out by the early morning call to be in nature by an amazing variety of birds setting up households in the neighborhood. I have an unbearable urge to devote my time to the natural world and to get my hands dirty. I need to redesign a flower bed I tore apart last fall to bring it new life. I long to stay outdoors all day, visit nearby nurseries and garden centers to see what is available. I love walking down the rows listening to plants shouting out, “Choose me, please! My roots are being suffocated by the blasted pot someone planted me in and I need to escape!” Once rescued and at home, there is then the need to fulfill my promise and set those cramped roots free where they can stretch out, and fulfill their promise to infuse my garden with color and joy.

IMG_0184Then there’s the stuff of everyday living. The laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, veterinarian appointments for an aging dog, my own need for a well deserved nap, and on and on. I print out my weekly calendar each week, then make a list each day of what needs doing. Usually it works well for me and it feels so good to cross items off that scrap of paper as I get them done.

But I the slow pace of winter where my lists were fulfilled each day without difficulty are over. Now there’s the galloping pace of spring. My lists are lengthier and linger into the next day and the day after that. My energy is good but not enough to do it all in one day. Some say it has something to do with my age and the extra time it takes to do things.  It leads to overwhelm and I get stuck in my old patterns of rushing around like an idiot.

So I’m here today to make a public promise to myself that I will not allow my slowness or the too many things to do make me crazy. I will continue at my slower pace and do one thing at a time, reminding myself that when I choose to do something on my list it can not be done half-way. It needs to be done well and thoroughly. If I write a personal essay I must do it the best way I know how and take as long as it needs. If I choose to take a thirty minute nap, I will not lie on my bed and fuss over what I “should” be doing instead.

I think that we could build a new movement of folks like me who don’t want to rush and can easily say, “That’s enough for today. “ Will you join me?

April’s Charm

IMG_0165It’s been a fairly warm winter and we only had one good snow storm — but it’s been a dark one with lots of rain. There were countless days in which all I wanted to do was to cozy up with a steaming cup of tea and somebody else’s book. But work on my own book was necessary. I reread and reread to check for mistakes that the editors, proof reader, and I all had missed. When the first day of spring arrived in March, I felt burned out on my story and wanted to throw it in the glowing coals of my fireplace. Fortunately, there were voices out there that told me to take heart, that many writers feel burned out at this stage of the game.

I’ve been away from my rereads for over a week now and feeling much better about the whole thing. I’m beginning to feel very excited as the back cover is coming together with great blurbs from a few people who have already read it. My airline tickets and hotel reservations are set for my trip to Chicago next month for Book Expo America, and my publicist spent an hour on the phone with me, giving me tips on what to expect along with lots of convention etiquette.

Being one who doesn’t like big crowds, I’ll be stepping way outside of my comfort zone. But, you know what? I’m looking forward to getting one more thing crossed off of the “Big Challenges List,” that I keep tucked away in my back pocket along with my Bucket List. I suppose they’re actually one and the same, but things on my Big Challenges List are more scary than those on my Bucket List. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter what happens. I will have done it and my sense of self-esteem and confidence will be have risen a rung or two on my “Life Ladder.”

The point is that regrets are built on the steps we don’t take to live out loud. I figure that I’ve been birthing this book for a long time and I must do everything I can do to bring it to life. If an infant isn’t breathing when it comes into the world, nurses and doctors don’t give up on it without trying to save it’s life. I’m not about to let my book die in the delivery room. I want her to be breathing nicely when she hits the first book shelf.

IMG_0162In the meantime, it’s April, and I have about six weeks before I need to worry about all of that. The days are longer and sunnier, I think the robin who kept me company in the garden last spring is back, and the greening of the new season seems greener than ever.

I celebrated an unusual happening this past week when two, yes that’s 2, handwritten letters arrived in my mailbox on the same day. One was a three page missive from grandson, Noah, to his grand dad, about a trip they are planning together, but he sent me his best wishes and love as well. The other was a thank you note from a friend who had recently visited me in Charlottesville.

How many handwritten letters get delivered to your mailbox in one day, week, or year? Once this book thing is done, maybe I’ll start writing letters to friends with a pen on real paper like I used to. I believe there is something very precious about someone taking the time to write me note using their hands, putting a stamp on it, and sending it through the mail. No one does that anymore.

I’m also celebrating my garden which is more beautiful than ever this spring. On Friday I went to myIMG_0163 favorite garden center to find some plants to in fill a few empty spaces. The varieties of flora took my breath away as I ambled up and down the aisles of ferns, hellebores, columbine, early blooming irises, and peonies. What to choose? How many? Which color? I came home with a variety of things that I’ll have to cover for the next few nights. It seems that winter isn’t giving up it’s hold on the weather just yet. Last week’s 70 degree weather will be gone for a while, but will soon return. At least we’ll not get snow like so many places north of here are promised.

There is lot’s going on in the future to worry and think about. But for now April charms me with her promises of a garden full of flowers, the first butterflies of the season, and birds singing their heart’s out in the early morning light.

Do you have a Big Challenges List and how do you keep yourself grounded in the present moment?

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.