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6 Sep
2018

National Read a Book Day

National Read A Book Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is “National Read a Book Day.”

Most of us are busy working, looking at our phones, exercising, watching our usual TV programs.  We put off reading until vacation or “when I have time.” Many of us have a stack of books beside our bed but we fall asleep before we read more than a paragraph.

Today, take a book off your stack of “books to read.” Or if you need a good book, go to your local library, visit your neighborhood independent bookstore or go on line at Hometown Reads to choose a book by a local author.

Today is a day to skip exercise, put off watching TV and ignore your phone. Instead, find a comfortable chair, your favorite beverage and open a book in your favorite genre. Take a deep breath and enjoy reading!

16 Aug
2018

Seeing Clearly

Cataracts, Seeing Clearly

“I would say they are ready. I am going to refer you to the best in town. He will exam your eyes and decide.”

My optometrist, who has carefully provided eye exams each year, had warned me a few years ago that I had cataracts growing slowly, not yet ready for surgery to remove them. Now he was telling me that he thought it was time to consider cataract surgery.

Another sign of the years slipping by when I try not to notice. I talked to friends and did a little research to learn more.

What are Cataracts?

In a healthy eye, the lens is transparent and focuses the light on the retina. Over time, the lens becomes more opaque or cloudy as the lens loses its ability to let light in. Cataract surgery entails removing the cloudy lens that has grown in the eye and replace it with an artificial lens. I learn it is very common for aging eyes and reputed to be one of the easiest surgeries to have. Sources on the internet proclaim that 98% of the surgeries are completed without complications. Many I spoke with raved about the positive outcomes of resolving their vision problems and reducing their dependence on glasses.

Seeing Clearly, CataractsThat is encouraging.

I make my appointment with the recommended surgeon who is both friendly and thorough. With healthy eyes, I have several options including: simple cataract removal and continue wearing my glasses; have my astigmatism addressed; change my vision to either near-or far-sighted; or mono-vision where one lens is for distance and the other is for close work such as reading.

Making a Decision

I take time to think about my options. When I was younger, wearing contact lenses not only gave me better vision but it also supported my vanity.  When I needed to give up my contact lenses and wear glasses, they concealed some of the signs of aging on my face. Do I really care now? Am I still vain?

When I wore contact lenses I had mono-vision lenses for a period of time. It is appealing to consider not needing glasses. I am warned that there is no guarantee that I won’t need glasses either for reading small print in low light or driving at night on unfamiliar dark roads. I remember that carrying multiple pairs of glasses for different vision needs, was annoying and provided one of the advantages to one pair of glasses with progressive lenses.

The doctor also advises me that some people have trouble adjusting to their eyes seeing differently, but since my brain adjusted to mono-vision contact lenses he believes I will adjust again. I decide on mono-vision and schedule my surgeries a month apart. I am hoping I won’t have to be bothered with glasses.

The Unfortunate 2%

Just before the date for my left eye, I talk with a colleague who just had his own cataract surgery. He exclaimed, “I am part of the 2% that have complications!” His simple cataract removal resulted in cloudy vision and he was very disappointed. His story increased my anxiety but I determined to proceed.

My early morning surgery was easy with no complications and twenty-four hours later when I removed the eye patch I could read with my left eye without glasses! How exciting! And the world was clear and bright when I closed my right eye.

However, seeing in general during the ensuing month was challenging. I could read with my new left eye, but with my right eye still compromised and with glasses created for my old vision seeing distance was difficult. I muddled through seeing the world through the yellow wash of the cataract, avoiding driving and asking others to explain what was blurry at a distance. I was even more hopeful for vision without glasses.

I talked with another friend who had cataract surgery shortly after my first eye. I learn that he, too, was part of the 2 % and could only see blurry images. I was grateful for the clear result in my left eye and held hope for a similar result in the right.

Seeing Clearly, Cataract

No Complications

A month later the second surgery was also easy and without complications. When I removed the eye patch my vision was clear and bright. I could see long distance and I could read. I cheered!  But there was a reservation. I discovered intermediate distance was blurry. Seeing items on my computer screen or reading the sub-titles on television was a definite problem. The doctor had not raised that issue. I was disappointed.

I need glasses after all. It was confirmed at my final eye appointment.

But as disappointed as I am, I remember the complications experienced by my friends. I am grateful for my clear sight and improved vision. I will need glasses for computer work and watching television but I have improved my vision. And my appearance with or without glasses no longer matters. I am happy.

 

8 Aug
2018
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Book Review: “The Search for My Abandoned Grandmother” by Mary Ames Mitchell

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Search for My Abandoned GrandmotherMary Ames Mitchell describes in detail her search for her English grandmother’s grave or burial site. The author’s mother, Betty May, last saw her mother, Eileen Maude, when she was seven in 1932 as she boarded a train in London with her brother to spend the summer holidays with her father in France. Betty May’s parents had divorced and the partings had become customary but this last time Eileen Maude acted differently and said goodbye with tears in her  eyes. Shortly after this parting she became sick and died. Betty May grew old in the United states, not knowing what happened or where she was buried.

Mitchell, interested in genealogy, decided to travel to England to search for her grandmother’s grave, and meet or connect with remaining relatives from her grandmother’s extended family who might help her search. She prepared for her first trip by contacting English cemeteries, reviewing scrapbooks, photo albums, talking to her mother’s brother and a step sister, conducting an internet search on the British National Archives site, visiting the local Family History Center, and contacting her English relatives. What she calls her “grandmother-search project” ultimately included three trips to England and two-trips to Scotland to visit cemeteries, churches and official record sites. She visited Betty May’s first cousins, her own second cousins, second cousins-once-removed and step cousins.

In addition to the detailed search for Eileen Maude, Mitchell very smoothly intersperses the biographical details of her grandfather’s extraordinary life and what she knows of her grandmother and their marriage. Although the details of her search are occasionally tedious, I found the story compelling. Like the author I was disappointed when she hit a “brick wall” and elated when she discovered additional clues. I recommend this book if you are interested in genealogy and family history as I am.

27 Jul
2018

“What About Your Mother’s Family?”

Sod house Bev Scott Author

My grandparents and their sod house in Nebraska (Solomon Butcher photo)

“What about your mother’s family?”

“…Oliver was a man who knew his own mind.  He had two daughters (one was my mother) who were never allowed to attend school. Oliver was sure that they would learn too many things at school that weren’t included in the curriculum. Mrs. Moody was a former school teacher, so Mr. Moody bought the books that were necessary and the girls studied at home. The law stepped in and tried to force the issue. But Oliver was adamant:  he’d go to jail first! So, they let him have his way, and those girls had the highest grades in the county when it came time for eighth grade commencement in Broken Bow. Their father allowed them to go to high school and college thereafter.” (from Clear Creek Echoes)

Custer County, Nebraska

Recently I decided to take up where I had left off several years ago, with learning about my maternal lineage. In 2001 I went to Custer County, Nebraska where my maternal great grandfather, William H. Moody, homesteaded in 1885, to explore the Custer County Museum. I found newspaper articles, quotes from my grandfather and obituaries. I discovered the story quoted above about my grandfather, Oliver H. Moody, shared in the book Clear Creek Echoes which recorded memories of the area between 1878 and 1978. It gave me insight into the man I knew only when I was a child.

My grandmother, Grace, was a school teacher until she was married in 1902. The state of Nebraska frowned on married women teaching school so she left the classroom when she became Mrs. Moody. My grandfather served as the school superintendent until he had to take over the family farm. Among the files I inherited from my mother are teaching certificates from the 1890’s demonstrating Grace’s competence to teach first and second grade and teacher’s contracts dating from 1896 to 1900, some of which are signed by Oliver Moody.

While I was in Custer County, I took a nostalgic drive out to view the land where my great grandfather homesteaded outside Broken Bow, Nebraska and met the current farmers. The one hundred and sixty acres of the homestead seemed like a lot of land to farm with a horse and plow! I researched the deeds for this land at the county courthouse. The “patten” by William H. Moody was filed in November,1885 under President Cleveland. Since my grandfather was the only boy in the family, the land was passed to him. I was very sad when I discovered that my grandparents lost their farm in the Depression after they had mortgaged it and couldn’t meet the payments.

farm, homestead, Bev Scott Author

Farm homesteaded by great-grandfather, viewed from location where farm house once stood.

Solomon Butcher, Prairie Photographer

I discovered at the Custer County Museum that the photo I have of my great-grandparents and their children in front of their sod house, is a Solomon Butcher photo. As a young man, Butcher decided he wasn’t up to the rigors of homesteading. Instead, he began to chronicle the photographic history of pioneer life. He gave one photo to the family and kept one himself. Between 1886 and 1912 he took more than 3000 photos many of them in Custer County. Many of those photos which adorned the walls of homesteading families in Custer County, were donated to the Custer County Museum.  Today the Museum has as one of its missions the preservation of his photos.

Back on the Genealogy Trail

Families are often filled with stories and rumors which may or may not be true. My mother’s family story was that we were descendants of William Brewster of Mayflower fame. But, did it have any basis? With my renewed focus on my maternal ancestry, I not only reviewed my notes from the 2001 trip to Nebraska, but I also rummaged through files that my mother had left me. I discovered a one-page document describing her mother as a descendant of William Brewster! However, there was no documentation. The piece of paper was just as good as the family story.

Many people have heard or read the story of my journey to find information about my mysterious paternal grandfather who was born in 1840. I combed cemeteries, libraries, county courthouses, historical museums and the US Census.  I searched online, on genealogy sites and requested documents from government agencies.  My quest ultimately took me to seven states in the Midwest.

Bev Scott, Author, Nebraska school

My grandmother Grace was a teacher in a school on the Great Plains in Nebraska.

I learned a lot about my paternal grandfather, John Howard Scott, aka Harvey Depew Scott. I discovered the family rumor about him was true.  However, there were twelve to fourteen years when he disappeared from the records. I was dedicated to the pursuit, convinced I would uncover where he was during those years. With the curiosity and passion for that search, I neglected the exploration I had begun of my mother’s family.

Now, refocused on my mother’s side of the family, I was curious to find the records of my maternal ancestry. I turned to Ancestry.com to see if I could use the names and relationships on the page from my mother’s files to find documentation. I was amazed at how easy it was to find marriage, census, death and historical records which documented the relationships for thirteen generations from William Brewster to me. Although the whole family tree is not yet complete, I am thrilled that I had the luck to easily find the information to establish this branch of my maternal ancestry.

It is such a contrast to the long journey and search for small clues about my paternal grandfather. I had begun that search in the paper files over twenty years ago at the National Archives. Since my grandfather fought in the Civil War I used the only information I had about him, his enlistment information given to me by my aunt. Those paper files gave me many clues, confirmed the family secret and launched me on the journey I described above.   It is now much easier to search for records online. I recently checked online again to see if I missed something in that journey. There is still no information about my grandfather during the times he disappeared.

The Records Reflect Stability and Disruption

What does the difference I describe between my two sets of ancestors suggest? My conclusion is that a stable family life, permanent residence and several generations of the pursuit of learning and education on the maternal side makes it easier to find records and documents. In contrast, losing a father at an early age, moving constantly and the lack of education characterizes my paternal grandfather’s story and leaves fewer records to pursue.

I am excited to be back involved with the genealogy of my mother’s family heritage. Although it is not mysterious, perhaps it will stimulate me to write some of the stories that I have uncovered and find quite fascinating.

Have you traced your family heritage?  What have you learned?

17 Jul
2018
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Book Review: “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers” by Sara Zeff Geber

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Book Review by Bev Scott, bevscott.comThis book is introduced by the gerontologist Harry “Rick” Moody, who reminds us all that we are all “solo agers” if we live long enough.  He says, “Successful Solo Agers have learned how to age alone and they have lessons we all need to learn.”

Sara Zeff Geber provides the guide book for that learning.  She covers the preparation needed to enjoy the second half of life, deciding how and where to live and ensuring care in one’s oldest age.  The information she covers is essential for aging as singles, married couples with or without children.  It is a rich resource and one all of us will use as reference as we ambivalently approach the tasks of preparing and making decisions for retirement.  Utilizing the worksheets and thoughtfully answering the questions can help us discover what will give us joy and fulfillment as well as care, comfort and financial security.

9 Jul
2018
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Book Review: “Prairie Fires – The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Caroline Fraser

Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser, book review by Bev Scott Author

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Reading and preparing this summary and review of Prairie Fires has been a long-term endeavor. Caroline Fraser has done a brilliant work describing the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the historical context of the time. She won both a Pulitzer and the National Book Critics Award. She begins the historical detail before Laura Ingalls was born in 1867 and describes the nine decades of Wilder’s life. Wilder died in 1957 but Fraser also gives us a postscript, describing the controversies which surrounded her estate. Fraser draws on letters, diaries, land and financial records filling in gaps in Wilder’s biography. As an amateur historian especially interested in American history, I was engrossed with the setting and the detail Fraser provided; and it took time for me to absorb it all.

Laura Ingalls was born after the US Army had devastated the Dakota Indians. The Homestead Act gave white settlers official permission to take the land in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Dakota Territory once occupied by Native Americans. She and her family lived through the natural disasters of drought, extreme heat, locust swarms and blizzards. Her father was unable to make a living for his family as a farmer. The family lost everything and literally skipped out of town to escape debts. Often overwhelmed with responsibilities and anxiety, Laura worked to help support her family, running errands, serving as a companion and seamstress, turning all her earnings over to her parents. At fifteen, she passed the exam to become a teacher of small children at a little school a few miles from home.

Almanzo Wilder came each weekend to pick her up in his wagon. She agreed to marry him in 1885 when she was 17. Although their first year of marriage was a magical one, Laura worried about money and the debt that Almanzo had accumulated to provide her a handsome house. In 1886 a baby girl, Rose was born adding another worry. Fraser points out that the economics were impossible. After expenses and setting aside seed for the next year, there was a little more than $40 to live on for another year. Even imagining that living on $40 was possible, disasters seem to stalk the Wilders: drought, cyclones, failing crops, fire, diphtheria, Almanzo’s crippling stroke. The title of the book, Prairie Fires refers to one of the disasters they confronted. They ultimately decided to leave.

Ingalls Family photograph

The Ingalls Family

Chicago and North Western Railway Company poster c 1870 encouraging immigrants to move to Dakota using their railroad

When they finally settled in Mansfield, Missouri in 1894, Laura would “step by cautious step, sieze control of their circumstances” proving herself adept to find ingenious ways to earn income, live frugally and manage their meager assets.  Fraser paints a picture of the grit and determination of Wilder’s struggle to survive. This was the beginning of their journey back from the brink of ruin. As Fraser describes, Laura Wilder’s life was a “titanic struggle to tame yet another wilderness alone with her crippled husband and a seven-year-old.” Because he was disabled by his stroke, Almanzo could not work a full day on the farm. They moved into town and he began a business making deliveries and hauling passengers. Laura worked keeping books for the oil company.

When her father died, Laura wrote an essay about her earliest memories of him. She described his greatest gift was his contentment with what he had. It was a powerful essay, remembering all of the songs he played, passionately describing everything about him. It was a beginning of her writing.

Her daughter, Rose, also began writing. At twenty-two after following a beau to San Francisco in 1908, she began writing newspaper stories. She shed her sense of inferiority and feelings of being unwanted and adopted a “belief in her superiority, a self-assured rejection of authority and those who wielded it.” She endeavored for the rest of Laura Wilder’s life to be her writing instructor and guide. The former strict matriarch, acknowledging her own insecurity, took her daughter’s hand and launched into a new career. This new relationship between mother and daughter lasted for the next forty years. (For a deeper look into Rose and Laura as collaborators, see article in The New Yorker, “Wilder Women.”)

By 1916 Wilder was a columnist for the Missouri Ruralist. She developed her voice and themes through her involvement and activism as a clubwoman, member of a Masonic organization, farm activist, secretary-treasurer for the Mansfield branch of the federal Farm Loan Association as well as a prolific columnist for the Ruralist. Wilder’s first national magazine article came through her daughter’s connections and marked their first collaborative clash. Using her former husband name, Rose Lane had a burgeoning career as a celebrity biographer by 1917. She was also a talented and insightful line editor. She wrote several pages of suggestions for a project Laura was working on urging her to pay attention to the rules of good writing, show rather than tell, stick to a narrative voice, provide colorful details and pay close attention to transitions.

Laura Wilder was working on her autobiography and writing children’s stories. Rose Lane discouraged her from writing children’s stories as trivial with no opportunity to make a name. Initially, her autobiography was rejected despite Rose’s revisions but was ultimately accepted, and she was asked to re-write it as a children’s story. Her first book, Little House in the Big Woods sold strongly during the Depression. Wilder was already hard at work on another book. Her books ultimately were listed in the top twenty bestselling children’s book of all time!

Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser, reviewed by Bev Scott Author

Laura Ingalls Wilder on her porch, home in the town of Mansfield, Missouri, early 1900’s

Laura Ingalls Wilder became one of the most significant influencers of our American culture. She showed children how to be poor without shame, demonstrated the heroism of endurance, celebrated the simple pleasures and how to make the best of what you have. She spoke against government intervention and opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal believing everyone could and should support themselves. She never acknowledged, perhaps never recognized, that the homesteading both her parents and her own family took advantage of was a gift of the government.

In Fraser’s biography of Wilder, we come to see that her autobiographical novels are stories that transform the brutal hardship she experienced into the American myth of stoicism, a romantic idealism of poverty and the ethos of individualism. We see the contradictions in her strength, perseverance and grit as a woman to aggressively pursue survival without debt with her belief that women belonged at home and in the kitchen. We also see the influence of her cultural times when we use today’s lens to identify the racist language and stereotypes in her books.

Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser, reviewed by Bev Scott

Farmer at the plow, “breaking” prairie sod.

Fraser not only writes a detailed story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and the historical times in which she lived, but she also chronicles the life of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Lane was Wilder’s editor, instructor and guide who revised and rewrote her work frequently without either of them acknowledging Rose’s contribution. Rose had no compunction to expanding the truth and including creative additions to the story that never happened. Wilder apparently saw nothing wrong with Rose’s fictional reporting. Neither of them heeded the strict standards that emerged at the time from the journalism school at the University of Missouri. Wilder accepted Lane’s practice of merging truth and fiction, publicly claiming that her books were true when at least some of the story was fiction.

Prairie Fires is a detailed, carefully crafted historical work. Fraser places the life of Wilder in the cultural context of the events on the American Plains of the nineteenth century and social forces and seismic shifts of the first half of the twentieth century. These events and social forces molded and shaped Wilder’s voice and philosophy which are embedded in the Little House stories. This cultural context helps us understand their enormous influence. Despite my frustration of so much attention given to Rose Wilder Lane, I highly recommend this book.

History vs. Genealogy vs. Historical Fiction

“History and genealogy…are two radically divergent views on the past.  The first says ‘This matters.’ The second says, ‘This matters to me.'”  John Sedgwick in the New York Times

History, Genealogy, Historical Fiction

Historians such as John Sedgwick tend to scoff at genealogists’ efforts to track down their ancestors by pouring over demographic records and old newspapers, using on-line services to trace family connections or spitting into DNA collection tubes. Historians have a “so what?” attitude. Until, as Sedgwick reports, he learned that an ancestor of his, was involved in a historic event for the Cherokee Nation. Then the civil war which erupted over the issue of the Cherokee Nation’s removal to the Oklahoma Territory became not just something that mattered historically but something that mattered to Sedgwick personally.

Writers of historical fiction see an obligation to present their stories in an accurate historical context and frequently do extensive research to learn the accurate details, scenes and key events of the historical time. Having done this extensive research, writers become engaged and committed to the historical context of their story. This sometimes tempts them to provide several pages of historical description and background which fascinates them but which tends to bore the reader. Historical fiction writers, then must continuously ask the question, “Does this background matter to my story?”

Here is an example of a slice of history that mattered in the pioneer West, mattered in the search for information about my grandfather and mattered in the development of my story.

Mattered to Me

As a lover of history, an amateur genealogist and a writer of historical fiction, I find these questions of “what matters” intriguing. In my genealogical research looking for information about my shadowy grandfather, I was searching for potential reasons why he might have abandoned his wife and family and where he might have gone. I hoped that information might give me clues about where I might find him in the public records. What mattered to me was finding places to look in public records in Texas; information about the “overland outfit” he worked for in the Dodge City area and how he might have ended up in Wyoming to marry my grandmother.

Historic scene, hand loom

Mattered to the Story

Unfortunately, I did not find my grandfather in the public records during a period of thirteen years. I could not find information to help me understand his disappearance nor how he got to Wyoming to marry my grandmother. I decided to write the story as fiction. I would need to creatively develop the story of my grandfather’s disappearance. I had a hypothesis that he joined a cattle drive and headed north from Texas based on clues in a deposition in which he said he “worked cattle.” Using that hypothesis, I researched the social and economic events of the longhorn cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City. What mattered to my story then were the perils of the cattle drive and the lawless character of Dodge City . Yet neither of these events had mattered to me in my genealogy research.

Mattered in History

In the history of the West, the cowboys leading cattle drives north and the lawlessness of Dodge City were infamous for a short period of time. They mattered in the history of settling the West, but they were soon diminished by the impact of the settlers claiming free land, often called “nesters,” cattle quarantines and the civilizing influence of families and women. These events historically had a much larger impact in the settlement of the west and really didn’t matter to me in my genealogy pursuit or in writing my historical novel.

Sedgwick says that as a historian he couldn’t take the story past the facts but as a genealogist he could imagine the feelings and physical encounters expressed in the conflict he describes. In my own experience, both the events of history and the documented facts of births, deaths and census rolls of genealogy are fact based. I found the facts are without the emotions of fear, sadness, frustration and joy or the insight from learning the motivation for abandoning a wife and family. Imagining emotions, motivations and creating dialogue makes a story more engaging to the reader looking for opportunities to understand history and identify with characters who made a difference in their time. It has been both a way to learn more history and to identify and understand my ancestors.

Exploring an example from my novel, Sarah’s Secret shows how history, genealogy and historical fiction are intertwined. I needed to use ideas from all three.

30 May
2018
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Book Review: “The Black Rose” by Tananarive Due

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Black RoseThe Black Rose, by Tananarive Due. is based on the truly inspirational story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, Madam C. J. Walker. She was born in 1867 on a plantation to slave parents who died from yellow fever, “Yellow Jack,” when she was about eight years old. From abject poverty, unable to read but with drive and belief in herself Sarah Breedlove overcame incredible odds. She lost her first husband who was beaten to death by a mob. Then, she worked long hours to establish a successful laundry business only to be humiliated by a white client who found flecks of blood on the white table cloth Sarah had washed. She searched for a solution to her itchy dandruff scalp, the source of the blood flecks, but the existing products did not help. Experimenting with different concoctions in her kitchen, she successfully created a new formula that worked.

After she met C. J. Walker, an advertising wiz, she established a successful hair-care products business and hair schools for women using the Walker method. She was driven by her belief that her mission was to help African Americans to improve themselves and become self-sufficient. Her passion, tenacity and dedication contributed not only to her success, but also to her denial of the risks to her health and to the estrangement of C. J. and her daughter, Lelia.

Tananarive Due has done excellent work in turning a project initially begun by Alex Haley, who became fascinated by Madam C. J. Walker and had begun research for a major novel, into a fascinating and engaging story. She has created a vivid historical narrative of Madam Walker’s life. Although fiction, the book provides an inspiring portrait of America’s first black female millionaire, philanthropist and amazing pioneer.

19 Apr
2018

“Outliers:” Artists and Independent Authors

Outlier Artists and Independent Authors

Cover of program from National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

“Outliers” are artists who make art that challenges the norms of mainstream institutions and who are unaware or indifferent to historical art traditions.

Outlier Artists Are Being Recognized

Many outlier artists are African Americans, women, disabled people or prisoners. They lack the agency or access to traditional paths and at one time were largely disregarded or forgotten. I learned about their engaging art, which communicates strong messages and offers fascinating perspectives in times of social, political and cultural upheaval, at an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

As my friend and I toured paintings, drawings, sculpture and other creative pieces, the docent explained that these artists are variously termed naive, primitive, visionary, folk or outsider. They are highly motivated and have taken the risk to express their art without the support of the traditional art establishment. They are now getting attention and their work is being brought into broad public view.

Outlier Authors

Afterwards, as I reflected on my experience of this exhibit, I connected the art of these “outliers” to self-published authors who go outside traditional publishing routes to get their books published. Traditionally, self-published books have been viewed as the last resort for authors who couldn’t get published by a traditional publishing house. Often seen as poorly written, weakly edited and carelessly designed, self-published books seldom recognized, acknowledged or even read.

But that has changed since Amazon, Smashwords, BookBaby, Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital and other platforms have thrown the doors open for anyone who wants to publish a book. Authors who go this independent route have more creative control and far better royalties. But, it doesn’t just happen with the push of a button. They must believe enough in their book to take the risk of making an up-front investment, before even one book is sold. That investment pays for the services of editors, designers, illustrators, copy editors, proof readers and marketing strategists who will help prepare and sell the book. For writers who don’t want to manage this professional team themselves, hybrid publishers offer some of the same services for a fee.

My Experience as an Outlier Author

Like the “outliers” in the National Gallery, I was motivated to get my book “out there” and chose not to pursue the traditional publishing route this time with my novel. I wanted the benefits of creative control. For any author, it is a risk just to write your cherished story, share it with the world and wait to see if anyone likes it in the form of reviews and sales. Deciding to self-publish and making that up-front investment are other risks.

Outlier artists and independent authors

In addition to the up-front financial investment, there was so much I needed to learn and manage before I could publish my book as an independent author. Fortunately, I found help from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), a group of authors, designers, editors, marketers and other professionals who believe in self-publishing. They are willing to share their experience and their wisdom with those who come to their meetings to ask naive questions, engage help from the professionals or just want to learn from the presenters and programs, how to do it themselves.

Like the “outlier” artists, self-published authors are highly motivated to write their stories, share their wisdom and express their ideas. The availability of new publishing platforms enabling us to by-pass the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing establishment, has resulted in a radical shift in the book business. Similar to the “outliers” in the art world, self-published books are now getting recognition and respect.

What risks have you taken to promote an agenda outside the traditional establishment? What motivated you?

3 Apr
2018
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Book Review: “The Boleyn King” by Laura Andersen

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

I love historical novels, and I needed a distraction during a cross country flight. The book The Boleyn King offers creative alternative history by imagining that Anne Boleyn actually gave Henry VIII a son who became king. Within the historical context of a threatening war with the French and Catholic unrest at home, the fictional William trusts only his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend, Dominic who serves as his counselor; and Minuette, who was raised by his mother, Anne Boleyn and serves as Elizabeth’s Lady in Waiting.

The story moves at a good pace providing intrigue and romance which is only increased with the discovery that both William and Dominic are in love with Minuette. This love triangle kept me reading but, I wondered if the character of Minuette could realistically exist in the royal household. Although the book provided the needed distraction on my flight, the story lacks depth and seems to be written for a younger audience. On the other hand, it is an innovative alternative to history and will easily provide a light distracting read perhaps for your summer vacation.

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