Menu
Browsing Category "The Writing Life"
2 Oct
2018

A Book Tour in Nebraska

Sunrise in Thedford, Nebraska

Sunrise in Thedford, Nebraska (2018)

We are standing at the intersection of US 83 and Nebraska Highway 2 reading the highway sign about the Sand Hills outside Thedford, Nebraska when I see the Dollar General Store across the Highway. Then I remember what the volunteer at the Historical Museum said about the land my great grandparents homesteaded. We found the homestead on an old plat map with Irvin Russell’s name. She said it was at this intersection where the Dollar General Store was built!

This was just one of the highlights of my fabulous 10 days on a book tour in Nebraska…yes Nebraska!  Readers will know that a section of Sarah’s Secret takes place in Nebraska. And others will know that I was born in Nebraska and have many family roots there. I traveled with my spouse who served as my driver and my very able assistant. This trip was a great opportunity to tell my genealogy story Searching for Family Secrets and read from Sarah’s Secret.

The Back Story

In 2011 when I was searching for information about my mysterious paternal grandfather, we visited the Thomas County Historical Museum in Thedford. My great grandparents, Irvin and Lydia Dodd Russell homesteaded there. My grandmother, Ellen Russell married Harvey Depew Scott in Thedford in 1892. One of the museum volunteers, Helen White, was very helpful in my search. When my book came out, I sent her a copy to thank her. She encouraged me to come to Nebraska. This spring she connected me to Terry Licking, President of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, who seems to know everyone across the state of Nebraska. Through Terry’s connections I was booked across the state into Historical Museums and Libraries to tell the genealogy story of Searching for Family Secrets and to read from Sarah’s Secret.

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The Experience of Nebraska

I learned even more about Nebraska. The historic Oregon, California and Mormon Trails dug into the Nebraska sod across the state and are memorialized at the Scotts Bluff monument just outside the town of Scottsbluff where I was born. I learned at the Legacy of the Plains in Gering and the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance about the challenges of the early pioneers trying to survive by farming and discovering the Sandhill grasslands were better suited to raising livestock.

We learned about the valuable water from the Ogallala Aquifer a vast underground reservoir which lies under almost all of Nebraska and parts of six other states. The survival of this valuable source of water is threatened, but Nebraska has put protections in place. We heard a story about Ted Turner and Jane Fonda blowing a multi-million dollar ranch sale because Jane preferred bottled water over the fresh water from the Ogallala Aquifer.

We had some great meals, often steak and chops. We found a gourmet restaurant in Scottsbluff that even carried California wines. The Emporium was so wonderful we had dinner there twice. In Broken Bow the restaurant at our hotel, the Arrowhead was excellent and my favorite meal was the walleye pike. We enjoyed fascinating discussions and a good meal at a gathering of neighbors when we visited friends in Lincoln.

Mullen Nebraska sign

Did you know that there is one of the 100 Best Golf Courses in the little town of Mullen? It is one of the most natural golf courses, ranked ninth in the best of the world.

In many of the places we visited, it was clear that those pioneers who settled Nebraska were mostly of white European descent. And because it is very white, we were conscious that it was much easier for us to travel across the state than if we were of color. But we were interested to learn about DeWitty, the largest and longest-lasting African American settlement in rural Nebraska. The settlers many from Canada were lured by the opportunity for free land after the Kincaid Act was passed in 1904 offering homesteaders 640 acres instead of the 160 acres of the first Homestead Act in 1864. The town was settled in 1907 and grew to 82 residents in 1910. The last resident left the area in 1936. The history of DeWitty reports that white and black settlers in the area treated each other as neighbors, helping out in times of need.

Custer County Museum, Nebraska

Custer County Museum exhibit

Genealogy and Book Readings

I met wonderful people some whom have moved into town, others who still ranch and raise cattle. The audiences in my sessions included people interested in genealogy who have intriguing and mysterious stories in their families, too. They asked many questions about the facts I uncovered about my grandfather and the missing information I was not able to find. They were interested in how I turned my family story into fiction. Others liked to read historical fiction and were intrigued by the story I had created. And they left the sessions with a book under their arm!

I took advantage of my visits and conducted more genealogy research, looking for additional information about family members who settled in the Thedford area. I not only found the plat map to identify the family homestead but I also found a copy of my great grandfather’s will from the County Court House. My maternal great grandparents also homesteaded in Nebraska near Broken Bow. Although I had visited before, I spent time looking for more information at the Custer County Historical Museum, too. I followed up on suspected related families and found the will of my great, great grandmother in the Custer County Court House.

Sunflowers, Nebraska

Back Home

I returned to San Francisco appreciating our natural air conditioning; In Nebraska, it was 85 to 95 degrees most days of our trip. Driving west to east and back, I appreciate the rolling hills, the green prairies and the flashy yellow sunflowers. Nebraska isn’t dramatic but it is a very pretty state. I am proud to claim it as my birthplace. I plan to go back to visit again.

Share
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!

Share

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.

Share
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?

Share
7 Feb
2018

Laura Ingalls Wilder, American Author

Did you read one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series when you were growing up? Or perhaps you watched the “Little House on the Prairie” television show based on her life which aired between 1974 and 1982.

There was only the enormous empty prairie, with grasses blowing in waves of light and shadow across it, and the great blue sky above it, and birds flying up from it and singing with joy because the sun was rising. And on the whole enormous prairie there was no sign that any other human being had ever been there…In all that space of land and sky stood the lonely, small, covered wagon (From Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder).

Laura Ingalls Wilder circa 1885

Laura Ingalls Wilder, circa 1885 (Wikipedia)

Today, February 7 is Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s birthday. She was born in 1867 near Pepin, Wisconsin. In my research and writing of Sarah’s Secret, I stood on the shoulders of this amazing woman who persisted in revising her writing before she achieved the success for the beloved autobiographical sages of the Great Plains. This connection was especially vivid for me in writing Part Two of Sarah’s Secret, much of which takes place on the prairies of Kansas, the setting for Little House on the Prairie. I called up images in my imagination from her writing as I imagined my character riding across Kansas.

Wilder’s family homesteaded in Dakota Territory. Their life on the prairie as homesteaders was grueling with many similarities to the life of my grandparents who inspired Sarah’s Secret. Like my grandparents, who also homesteaded on the Great Plains, the Ingalls family faced severe hardships of blizzards, near starvation and poverty, the challenges that became stories of triumph in the Little House series.

Wilder was also a teacher like my grandmother a few years later. In 1882 Laura Ingalls passed the test to obtain her teaching certificate. At 15 years old she taught in a one-room schoolhouse about 12 miles from her parent’s home. The family friend, Almanzo Wilder, who was sent to bring her home for weekend visits became her husband in 1885. She quit teaching to raise children and work the farm with Almanzo. Her daughter, Rose, was born in 1889. They, too, faced relentless challenges of illness, death and poverty before they ultimately settled and farmed in the Ozarks near Mansfield, Missouri in 1894.

But it was not until the 1920’s with encouragement from her daughter, Rose, did Wilder attempt to write her first autobiography which was rejected by publishers. Wilder was determined to succeed and like authors today, she reworked her writing over and over. In 1932, she published the first book Little House in the Big Woods. She completed the eighth one of the series in 1943 when she was seventy-three. She died in 1957 on the farm she and Almanzo had settled sixty years earlier.

Today, on her 151st birthday, I honor this American woman author writing stories of the challenges and triumphs of homesteading on the Great Plains. Laura Ingalls Wilder is an inspiration and role model whose persistence won her hard-fought success in a male-dominated profession.

I just purchased Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline  Fraser, a historical biography. The description says that the true saga of Wilder’s life has never been told and that this book fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Needless to say, I am anxious to read it. Look for a review in the near future.

What are your memories of the Little House book series or the television program “Little House on the Prairie?”

Share
25 Sep
2017

A Book Tour Experience…Virtually

 Old BusBook Tour Virtual Blog "Sarah's Secret"

 

Marketing my Own Book

“Where are you going on your book tour?”

Friends and strangers often ask about where I am going on my book tour when they learn about my new historical novel. Those interested but not involved in the publishing business may not be aware that authors are increasingly expected to take responsibility for marketing their books, even those traditionally published. Independently published authors like me have to become our own marketing “firms.”

Book Tour or Virtual Book Tour?

Arranging a book tour to physical book stores is daunting and requires ingenuity, persistence and a lot of work. In the pre-Internet days, an author might work with a publicity agent who would then arrange for broadcast interviews, personal appearances at bookstores, and also pump the local press for feature articles or mentions. The book signing at a book store would be a central event with good marketing and sales opportunities. Travel to locations was part of the grind.

Vintage BaggageAs we know, the world has changed and brick and mortar retail is no longer king. Sales and distribution have largely shifted to e-commerce and online platforms. Thus, to be present to an audience increasingly means, being visible and find-able on the Internet. I am still a fan of the local bookstore as are many other readers and authors; yet marketing only in that space is unrealistic and limiting. Fortunately, there is an easier and simpler option on the Internet – Virtual Book Tours which can provide a platform to get your book in front of hundreds of readers without traveling.

 

How It Works; How I Did It

Of course, you can arrange your own virtual tour by contacting blogs who focus on your genre or topic. But I took the easier option and hired an expert, Amy Bruno who is a long-time member of the blogging community. She has established relationships with fellow bloggers and writers and knew which ones would be a good match with my book. Through her business Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, she could tailor the tour to my needs. She arranged book reviews, interviews, excerpts, articles and a give-away contest for my book, Sarah’s Secret with fifteen blog sites whose followers have an interest in historical fiction.

Planning the Tour

We began the planning over two months before the tour was scheduled. Once the blog sites were identified and the type of posting requested, I provided complimentary copies of Sarah’s Secret for the bloggers and the give-away contest as well as the requested excerpts, articles or interviews. The actual tour took place over a three-week period with one or two postings each week day. In addition to the visibility which Amy gives each tour from her website and Facebook page, announcements went out from my own Facebook and LinkedIn pages as well.

Upsides and Downsides

Of course, the downside of touring virtually is that I didn’t have an opportunity for face-to-face interaction as is possible in a physical book reading but I was happy with the experience. My positive outcomes include some great reviews, an opportunity to submit my book for review in the UK and an increase in sales! And it was a lot easier than arranging it myself or physically traveling.

If you have done a virtual book tour, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Share
10 May
2017

Interview with “Sarah Martin”

“Sarah Martin” is the key protagonist of my novel. Some readers have posed questions wanting to learn more about Sarah. Curiosity is good, and I’m pleased that readers are engaged enough in the story to wonder a little more about my character’s background.

To answer the questions raised by readers, I’ve conducted a “virtual interview” with Sarah, whose story is based on my real grandmother’s life. I hope this interview will reveal some of the back story and satisfy readers’ curiosity. Sarah’s answers below are as close to the real-life situation as I know.

Since this is historical fiction, you can choose to think of other ways that the character Sarah could have answered the questions! When you read the interview, imagine someone like Sarah and see if you think my interview captures what such a person might say in reply to my questions. People were much more private back then, and it was easy to hide secrets. Of course, this was a key premise of the book!

——————————-

Grandma Scott, portrait

The real Grandma Scott served as inspiration for “Sarah Martin.”

Imagine Sarah Martin at seventy, petite, dressed in a cotton house dress, with a shawl over her shoulders. She takes each step with care and caution as she moves toward the rocking chair. Her gait is uneven as she favors one knee. She wears special shoes to accommodate her crippled feet. Before she looks up, she lowers herself into the chair and smooths her skirt over her knees.  She looks directly at me with a tentative smile and then she looks down.

I begin:

BAS: “Thank you, Mrs. Martin, for agreeing to be interviewed. The readers of “Sarah’s Secret” have asked questions about the background of the story and what happened in your life after the story in the book ends. Do you mind answering a few questions?”

Sarah Martin (SM): [She pulls out a lace trimmed hankie from her sleeve and fingers it in her gnarled hands.] “I’ve never been interviewed like this before. I’m nervous.” [She takes in a deep breath, lifts her head, and smiles.] “Please call me Sarah.  What would your readers like to know?”

BAS: “Let’s talk about Sam. What attracted you to a man who was so much older than you were?”

SM: [Leaning forward in her chair and rocking slowly, her hands quiet in her lap, she smiles.] “Well, he was a very handsome man and I was a spinster school teacher. He was very kind, interesting and a good conversationalist.” [Pausing as if she might be considering her next words] “Of course, now, I don’t know how much he was pulling my leg sometimes.”

BAS: “What do you mean, ‘pulling your leg’”?

SM: [With the firm confidence of a teacher] “That is an expression we use when someone exaggerates and tells stories.”

BAS: “So he didn’t tell you the truth about his life before you met? What did he tell you?”

SM: [Sarcastically] “Not much that was true”.

BAS: “And you accepted enough of what he did tell you to marry him?”

SM: [Slumping in her chair and lowering her eyes, toying with her hankie] “Yes, I trusted him. It turned out I was naïve. I thought he would be a good husband and father. I wanted children of my own. He did give me five wonderful children.” [She stops rocking and straightens her back. With wide eyes and defiance] “I have never told them the truth about Sam. And I don’t want you to either. I want them to feel positively about their father.”

BAS: “Don’t worry your children aren’t around anymore. They won’t find out. But, why didn’t you want them to know the truth?”

SM: [Sounding defensive] “I didn’t want my children to be as embarrassed and humiliated as I was.”

BAS: “Did you know he came from Indiana? And that his father died when he was four? His mother died in the poor house with no one to support her. I think Sam had essentially abandoned his mother to the poor house.”

SM: [With sarcasm] “Abandoning women in his life seems to have been a habit!” [Rocking again in an even voice) “He never mentioned his roots, only that his family was gone and he wanted to create his own family with me. I wanted children too. He was a good husband. My family approved of him although they wondered why he had never been married before.” [Her eyes wide and she lets out a short laugh.) “It turns out there was reason to wonder.” [Suddenly sharp and irritated] “I don’t want to spend time talking about him anymore.”

BAS: “You were left destitute when your husband died. How did you manage?”

SM: [Patiently explaining] “I had hoped to get the Widows Benefits from Sam’s service but that didn’t happen. I went back to teaching. I had been a teacher before we were married. Of course, the older boys helped to support us and we lived very simply.  I have few needs.”

Old-time Classroom Scene

BAS: “But I thought school boards frowned on hiring married women. How did you manage to get hired?”

SM: “Well initially, I was a replacement for my nephew who went into the army. Also, because Sam was gone they accepted me as a single woman. It helped that my family had homesteaded the area and my father was a respected judge. Of course, he died before I could get back to Nebraska. So, he wasn’t any help in dealing with some of the hostile town folk”.

BAS: “Why were they so hostile?”

SM: “There was one man in town who was angry with my family because of a disagreement over water rights.  He vowed to get even so he spread rumors about me and Sam.”

BAS: “Does that have anything to do with why you didn’t get Widows Benefits?”

SM: [Offended] “No, that was a government decision.”

BAS: “But why didn’t you get them? What reason did they tell you? And why didn’t you ever tell anyone”

SM: [Sharply] “That is something I have never discussed with anyone. It was too humiliating.”

BAS: “You were school superintendent of Thomas County. Are you proud to be possibly the first woman school superintendent in Nebraska?”

SM: [Frowns and looks confused] “Proud? I was proud that I did the best job I could. I made some mistakes. I learned how to deal with the problems…but I don’t have any thoughts about being proud to be the first woman. That would be unseemly to feel that way.” [Pausing before she continues] “I had to leave after a few years because my illness got worse. I took my two youngest children to live in Wyoming near my middle son who homesteaded there. They graduated from high school. I am very proud that they went on to college and ultimately graduated. They each supported themselves working to pay for school so it took a few years. All of my children were very good to me and helped support me into my old age. I am proud to have sixteen grandchildren.” [Wistful] “I haven’t even met all my great grandchildren.”

SM: [Quiet, seemingly lost in her memories. Then, abruptly] “That’s enough.  I don’t want to answer any more questions.”

END

Blackboard "History"

Share
28 Apr
2017

Independent Bookstore Day

Independent Bookstore DayWhere do you buy your books?  Your local independent bookstore?  Or online?

You may have heard that bookstores are going away. But that is not true. They are growing and expanding. They actually increased more than 20% between 2009 and 2014. The American Booksellers Association reports an increase of 8% a year. Among other reasons, this growth has been helped by the buy-local movement that has helped many small business owners.

Independent bookstores are more than a store that sells books. They are community centers in their neighborhoods holding and promoting events unique to their communities. They are celebrated landmarks, anchors for shopping districts, neighborhood performance spaces and quiet retreats for a rainy afternoon. They are run and staffed with passionate readers who are fonts of information to help you find the right book.

Saturday, April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day

Independent Bookstore Day Logo

Bookstores will have parties to celebrate with authors, balloons, refreshments, games and fun activities for adults and kids. Independent bookstores are vibrant community resources and they deserve your support. This is an opportunity to celebrate and support your neighborhood bookstore.

If you live in San Francisco, here is a list of the The 12 Best Independent Bookstores in SF.  Don’t live or work in San Francisco? Here is a map to locate your an independent bookstore near you.

Support your local independent bookstore.

Share
14 Apr
2017

Launch, Crunch, Oh My! Introducing Sarah’s Secret to the World

Airplane banner Sarah's Secret

A Time to Celebrate

The room was bubbling with conversation, laughter and congratulations. The book cover was fabulous and everyone loved the title. I felt energized and pleased. When I read suspenseful excerpts from the story, the audience wanted to know what happens next. Many of my guests engaged me with questions about the story and my journey as an author. I had finally held my very first book launch event, in January 2017.

Despite several guest cancellations due to a winter rain storm of epic proportions, I had an overflow crowd. I autographed and sold many books which was gratifying. Thus, I looked forward to the second launch party in February. But that was not to be. On the last day of January, I tripped and fell, breaking my arm near my wrist.

 A Time to Step Back

Since I needed to have surgery on my arm, I was forced to cancel a week’s vacation in Hawaii and the second book launch party. I solicited help to complete the publication on Amazon Kindle and Ingram Spark; friends came to visit and brought me meals. I had to learn to let go and let others take care of my needs. Once I accepted this slight twist of fate, I felt deep gratitude for the supportive community that surrounded me.

Journey of Independent Publishing

I’ve experienced quite a journey of research, learning how to write historical fiction, writing many drafts and deciding how to publish. Although this was my first novel, writing and editing were familiar from my prior work in non-fiction. But I had no idea what was in store when I decided to self-publish. I joined the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) and learned a lot from the generous and experienced members. Publishing tasks and promotion tasks piled up on my to-do list. Even so I didn’t know about the promotional advantage of scheduling the “Cover Reveal.” I missed understanding about fixing the launch date far enough in advance to have time to send out advance reader copies for review and to set up a pre-order process.

Who’s Coming to the Party?Plan A B C

As I planned the book launch, I was thrilled to have a friend offer a venue for a second launch party. So initially, I sent out invitations via an online event management program for guests to choose one of two dates. That turned out to be complicated and some people overlooked the need for an RSVP to get the venue address resulting in much confusion and frantic emails.

This reminded me that coordinating any sizable event, with RSVPs, is still a big undertaking despite the software and apps that supposedly “simplify” the process. I learned that many people still do not respond to or are a bit baffled by e-invite systems. I had to keep updating my “e-list” manually and respond to emails sent to me directly. I felt anxiety because my invitees were good friends, colleagues and family members. What if I inadvertently had left someone out or forgotten to follow up?

Lessons Learned

Still, despite the challenges and the weather, the first launch party was a great success. Now as we begin to re-schedule the second book party, I look back on what I learned about launching my book:Magazine with Sarah's Secret

  • Most importantly, given my goals for the book, I don’t need to rush to meet anyone else’s expectations or schedules. Stressful deadlines are not worth it. I have enjoyed my slower pace.
  • It is important to plan extra time for key first time tasks that are likely to take longer than expected.
  • There are many ways to promote and launch a self-published book; and all of them don’t necessarily fit for my book.
  • Simplifying the invitation process makes it easier on both the guests and the host.
  • Appreciate colleagues and friends who provide support and laughter for the milestones.
Share
28 Mar
2017

Women’s History Month: Sarah and Grandma’s Inspiration  

“Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.” 

Myra Pollack Sadker*

Women's History Month

Grandma’s Inspiration

My grandmother, Ellen Russell Scott, inspired and motivated me as I was growing up. She was in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis, yet she seldom complained. She shared a smile with everyone she encountered. As a former teacher, Ellen valued education and encouraged me to get good grades and do the best I could.

I agree with the National Women’s History Project, (NWHP) that “We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us.” My hope in writing a story based on Ellen’s life, “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” was that others would find inspiration in her courage and her strength.

Sarah

The character of Sarah is devastated by the loss of her husband Sam, as I imagined Ellen must have been when my grandfather H.D. Scott died leaving her a widow with five children. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Immediately after his death, she steps outside…

”I felt myself shiver.  The wind was unusually still for New Mexico, but the air was crisp and cold. I went back inside. I wanted to feel the heat from the fire in the stove. I wanted to be warm, really warm.  I sat down in my rocking chair rocking slowly. The coldness inside moved up my back and tingled at the nape of my neck….

“’I’m, a widow.’ I said aloud. I was alone, completely responsible for the children, not just for a few weeks or the winter season until Sam returned. I felt cold, flat. I opened my Bible, hoping for solace. I began to survey the landscape of my mind, much as I had the landscape outside. My mind was a closed book with all the memories of my life with Sam shut away.  ‘I am alone’…”

But Sarah, like many women alone today, pulls herself together, finds the courage and fortitude to take her five children back to Nebraska.

Sarah Finds Strength and Confidence

The back story of Sam, a fictional character, is based only on limited information about my grandfather, a man not as Sarah experienced him nor what the reader expects. Sarah must face the betrayal of her trusted husband. Like many women who face adversity, Sarah finds through the humiliation of betrayal and her struggle to hold her family together, the strength and confidence within herself to take a position as the first woman school superintendent in the state of Nebraska.

Women’s History Overlooked

Without knowing about the women in our history or in our family stories we lose the opportunity to find role models, be inspired and dream about our future. As we know, women in our diverse American cultures are overlooked in mainstream history. Yet, as the NWHP website states, “they are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.”

I am grateful to the National Women’s History Project founded over 30 years ago in Santa Rosa, CA. NWHP serves as a catalyst, a leader and a resource in promoting women and their role in our American history. In 1978, they initiated a week of celebration of “Women’s History.” Congress ultimately declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987. This month is in recognition of the importance of women in our history. A balanced and inclusive history must not make the mistake of ignoring the critical role and contribution of women.

The Power of History and Inspiration

Knowing the stories of women from our own families, acknowledging the contributions of women in our cultural heritage and giving recognition to the historical achievement of the women overlooked in our history books, helps us know who we are. Then we can feel the power of inspiration and ignite our dreams.

What stories do you know about the women in your family history? What women in your life have inspired and motivated you?


*Quoted on the website of the National Women’s History Project.

Share
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons