On October 26, 2019 I participated in the First Annual Easton Book Festival in Easton, PA. I joined 40 other regional authors at the Book Fair where we sold signed copies of our latest books. I featured my memoir, BEV: The Invisible Sister. Unfortunately, the scheduled book readings didn’t go well for most of the authors because of a lack of publicity and signage - a lesson learned for the organizers. I had a wonderful time anyway, as I usually do at these author events. I met wonderful people, sold a few books, and enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow writers. At the next Festival I hope to feature my first Aurora St. Charles title, Spell of the Samba, which is due out at the beginning of next year.
We had a cloudburst in my neighborhood today. I love that word - cloudburst. You can just picture those big, fat black clouds rolling into view, so heavy with rain that they burst open like a stack of overfilled water balloons. I stopped what I was doing inside the house and walked out onto the deck to watch the cool curtains of rain slapping down onto the trees and grass and macadam. It’s July in the Northeast. We have been enduring a heat wave, days of hot and humid weather that weighed us down with too much of a good thing. The rain was welcome, a cold front moving through noisily with donder and blitzen. This cloudburst was just the precursor to the real show, which would start later, after the day got ripe and steamy. The brief downpour brought with it that special smell of cool rain hitting warm earth. It’s one of those smells that remind us all of something or somewhere, the kind that makes us stop for a moment to remember.
It makes me think of being a little girl, playing with my friends on a sticky summer day, getting caught off guard by the rain, scurrying onto a porch to wait it out. A bunch of hot and sweaty little bodies hastily crowded together, out of breath from running home from the woods or the playground. We would wait restlessly for the rain to taper off to a mist, then run out to the steaming street to splash in the gutters, where rivers of water whooshed down to the storm sewers. We cartwheeled in the wet grass, tromped through every puddle, picked up drowned worms from the sidewalk with screams and giggles. We reveled in the only air conditioning we had in those days, courtesy of Mother Nature, provided by the chilly breeze that swept on through after a storm. We might finish off our afternoon playing Parcheesi on the porch, cool as cucumbers, as our wet clothes dried, never knowing that someday we would become a fond memory called up from the past by a sudden summer storm on another porch far, far away.
Here I am reporting on another Write Stuff Conference, which takes place every spring in Bethlehem. This year it was held March 21 - 23, 2019. I’ve been going to these annual conferences for six or seven years. I always attend only on the Saturday when they schedule a selection of short seminars that attendees can choose from. There is also always a key note speaker who conducts day long seminars during the week and gives a talk at the luncheon. There are other activities, too, including a book fair on the last day where I usually manage to sell a book or two. I always enjoy going to the conference and I always learn something new.
This year I participated in Page Cuts, a forum for writers to submit the first page of a longer work to a panel of agents. The submissions are anonymous so that the author can hear the commentary along with the rest of the audience without feeling vulnerable. I submitted the first (and only LOL) page of a middle grade fantasy I’ve been thinking about writing. I’ve had a great first paragraph for over a year, expanded it to a couple of pages, but haven’t gone any further with it. The agents who read it were very intrigued and one said she would like to see more. Too bad there isn’t any more, not yet anyway. Their positive reaction inspired me to go ahead with the project. It’s going to be a long haul getting it done, but now I have a lot more confidence that it has merit, which will spur me on. And so it goes that every year I get something to take away from The Write Stuff that helps me on my writer’s journey.
At this point in my writing life I haven’t attended any writers’ conferences except a local annual one called The Write Stuff, which is run by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, so my experience with them is limited. However, after attending several Write Stuff conferences I have learned that they emphasize helping writers to establish a profitable writing career. They include workshops on the craft of writing as well, but even those seem to concentrate on writing that will sell. The whole idea of writing seems to be sales. That’s important, of course, if someone wants to make a living, or at least supplement their income, by writing. The workshops are about getting published, establishing a brand, creating websites and Facebook pages, and convincing readers to follow you online. The featured speakers are people who have written dozens of books and seem to think that is a commendable attribute. This is all well and good for writers who are young enough to have at least ten or fifteen years to devote to getting started in a writing career that features an extensive book list. I don’t.
Although I have been writing all my life, I have come late to the publishing party. My goal, therefore, is not to launch a writing career, but to realize what it is that I must write, and get it done. I need to get it all down on paper or screen before it is too late. Everything that I have ever wanted to write is bubbling up inside me and screaming to be heard. I have to face the fact that I will simply not live long enough to write it all down. Having gotten a late start, for me a lifelong writing career is going to be a short one. I’ve got to sift though all of the ideas and titles and paragraphs and pages I’ve accumulated, narrow them down to the essence of what I need to say, and say it fast. Yes, I do regret not having started this process forty years ago. There are lots of reasons why, and I know them all too well. But that was then and this is now. And so I have begun a very short writing career that I hope will be remarkable - not profitable in dollars and cents, but rewarding in the satisfaction that I will literally have the last word. I hope that I will still be writing on the last day of my life, and that someone will still want to read what I wrote long after.
On March 24, 2018 I attended the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group annual conference called The Write Stuff. The conference goes on for three days, but I usually attend only on Saturday. This year I actually had a shorter day since I had to leave in the afternoon to attend a performance of the Tamburitzens with friends and family. The conference has workshops all day and a keynote speaker at the luncheon. This year’s speaker and featured presenter at the conference was Bob Mayer, a writer and entrepreneur. I always enjoy the conference, and after attending several of them, I have some observations to make. I’ll do that in a separate entry here in the blog.
It is March and I am still watering my Christmas poinsettias faithfully. My aim is to keep them alive until Easter. I love seeing the brilliant red poinsettias sitting alongside the more delicate pink hyacinths and yellow daffodils that I bring into the house for the Easter season. They share the space on top of the long buffet cabinet in the dining area of my house and signal the transition from winter to spring in a floral tableau. I fell in love with the idea of Easter poinsettias when I was a little girl. My Polish granny had a corner grocery store at the end of a long row of houses on a steep city street. Upstairs she had a small apartment that she sometimes rented to temporary boarders to supplement her income. In her later years she stopped renting the rooms and used them for storage. My sister and I loved to play there on Sunday afternoons while the adults lingered around the lunch table with their whiskey and cigarettes. We would pretend that the apartment was our house, a place where we could make our own rules and imagine our someday grown up independence. At the rear of the house was a little sun porch warmed by the afternoon sun. That is where Granny kept her plants - African violets, begonias, cacti, and seedlings ready to set in her garden when the time was right. That is also where she kept her poinsettias after Christmas, letting them live as long as they cared to. It fascinated me that Christmas could linger on well past Easter and into summer, one happy season leading into the next. I loved visiting the poinsettias into their old age as their flowers faded and leaves turned yellow. It just seemed right and proper that they should have their full share of life. My grandmother was a practical woman who had no trouble cutting the head off a chicken when it was her time for the stew pot. There was no romantic reason for her to keep the poinsettias alive for so long. She had paid good money for them in November and she would keep on watering them until they shriveled up in the summer heat. I am the romantic who keeps the poinsettias alive to meet the daffodils, the aging child who can still feel the late afternoon sun pouring in through the paned glass, the air so thick and still, in the sun porch of my grandmother’s house on the hill.
It’s hard for me to believe that March 2018 marks the third anniversary of the publication of BEV: The Invisible Sister, which came a year after Bev’s death in February of 2015. Just before my book release I established this website to provide me with a public entity. Within this website is my blog, which I’ve been using primarily to report on my book signings and promotions. It’s time for that to change - it needs to be more than that. But one of the reasons that I haven’t written in this blog is that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say here.
BEV is a memoir centered around my intellectually disabled sister. My main purpose in writing the book was to come to terms with how my family and I dealt with her disability. There was so much I didn’t know about the whys and wherefores of her being sent to live at Pennhurst State School and Hospital as a child. A cloud of guilt and fear and shame hung over me when I thought about how we had let her become invisible, a shadow who lived in some sort of limbo between two worlds. I needed to understand how that happened and how that affected me personally. I had never been able to move beyond looking at my sister Bev through the eyes of a frightened child. I was a prisoner of my memories. Writing BEV was a breath of fresh air that blew through the past and let the truth shine through. It is said that the truth will set you free, and it does. Once I found out the truth I could let go of the guilt and let myself love Bev as a whole person in the here and now, not in the past.
BEV was a once in a lifetime book, and I will never write anything like it again. But now that I have written it, I want to keep writing. During the eight years I spent working on BEV, writing became a part of my life that I don’t want to let go. And so, I would like to use this blog to write about writing and creativity and late blooming. Though I will always be glad to talk about Bev and the book I wrote about her, I don’t want to do that in this space. I want to explore what I found in the process of writing her story. By writing that book I opened the door to my self expression. I became fearless in expressing myself and believing in what I have to say. Through my writing I hope to become true to myself and my own heart. I promise that what I write here will always be true.
In the fall of 2017 I participated in two local author events. On October 14 I took part in a local author promotion at the South Mall in Allentown, PA. Though there wasn’t a lot interest shown in our books by the shoppers at the mall, I enjoyed meeting with my fellow authors and sharing the stories of our adventures in writing and marketing. A more successful event was the Local Author Day at Barnes and Noble in the Southmont shopping center in Easton, PA on November 18. We had four tables of local authors and lots of interest from the shoppers at the store. There were quite a few sales and lots of camaraderie. My next big event will be the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group’s Write Stuff Conference in Bethlehem, PA on March 24, 2018. This is an annual event that I always look forward to. I’m still promoting BEV: The Invisible Sister and now am getting ready to find a publisher for my Aurora St. Charles romance, Spell of the Samba. .
On March 25, 2017 I attended The Write Stuff writers’ conference in Bethlehem, PA. It was hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, which is the local writing group I belong to. It was a great event that featured Michael Hague, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, as the keynote speaker and workshop presenter. I had an opportunity to talk to an agent about my book and received some good advice about how to proceed with marketing BEV. At the end of the day there was a book fair at which I was able to sell a few copies of my book and network with some of my fellow local authors. A great event!
I have been invited to take part in the River Reads Book Festival in Stockton, NJ on Sunday, October 23, 2016. This event features over 40 authors from the surrounding area who will be showcasing their latest books, signing copies, and presenting readings from their work. There will also be a "blind date with a book" sale to benefit the Friends of the Hunterdon County Library, wine tastings from Unionville Vineyards, crepes from Bonjour Creperie, and giveaways to local bookstores and Triumph Brewing Company of New Hope with the purchase of a book! It's all happening Sunday, October 23 from 10:00 to 4:00 at Prallsville Mills, Stockton, NJ. Check out the link below for more information. Hope to see you there!