Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Down in the Valley

Happy Valley sounds like a blissful spot, doesn't it? Toss in people from all across the world and some fiddles and clogs, and you have the most happy spot on earth, at least for a few days of hard earned Labor Day relaxation.

Saturday was competition day. Singing. Picking. Clogging. Strumming. Solo. Groups. All day. With finalists facing off in the evening.

Also with ample activities to entertain the children ranging from barn fun, milking a cow, to playing in the river that flows down in the valley...and even a parade.
This valley reeks with history. Tom Dooley. Daniel Boone. Captain William Lenoir. Three of my books take place down in the valley: Wheels and Moonshine, you can imagine for yourself the goin's on in this book that was such a delight to write; Racing On and Off the Road  in Caldwell County, the valley through which many a drag race thundered in the early morning hours decades ago; and Fly Fishermen of Caldwell County, the life stories of men on the streams that feed into the river these children played in this weekend. Okay, so four books. Dr. Jane Carswell lived there in the valley, too.

Sunday's lineup was chocked full of bluegrass artists singing their hearts out and drawing an appreciative crowd. Even the late afternoon rain shower didn't dampen the enthusiasm. The festival ended on Sunday, but Monday, a local gem of a tiny restaurant held its follow up response by hosting Liver Mush Monday. Proven fact: Breakfast tastes better with live bluegrass music in the background.
Again there was singing.
A bit of clogging.
Strumming.
Picking and grinning.
Lots of grinning.
Plain old valley fun!
I hope your Labor Day was relaxing enough to sustain you through the weeks ahead.
Mine was.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Launched and Soaring

THE MOON LANDING BOOK IS OUT THERE!

Launched...with the help of toy rockets and parachutes, Moonpies and Tang.

BUT...

I felt like the Cheshire Cat wanting to fade away into only a plastered-on smile. I had made a significant error in a date and there it was, first line, first page. Bang! Printed, chiseled in stone. Fifty copies and an advertised launch date I couldn't get out of.

In the greater scheme of things, this shouldn't be all that big of a concern. In the smaller scheme, however, that day, it certainly was. My heart fell into the pit of my stomach the minute a friend called me to point out the error. Everyone needs a friend who has her back and I am eternally grateful for the tremendous favor she did in that simple call.

Immediately I revised the manuscript and triple checked all the other dates as well as names, something I had done over and over and over, or so I thought. Proven fact, typos (and negligence) exist, and my error is the the evidence.

While the error was easily repairable, my reputation as a nonfiction author would be called into question. I made the decision to go on with the launch. I found sticky notes of the Cheshire Cat and attached them to the page above the incorrect date, along with the word oops, to let the reader know of the mistake. Truth matters.

Then I lowered the cost to below my cost, and forged on, giving the customers a chance to wait a week for the corrected version if they preferred. No one did.

But I have copies left over that I can't sell. Won't sell. What to do with a stack of books???

Hmmm.

Maybe I'll make school visits and let the children read the books, explaining up front about my error as part of the lesson. And then do my thing as a former fourth grade teacher who swears by the whole language approach to reading instruction.

Meanwhile, yesterday the new shipment arrived and the first thing I did after I ripped open the top was check the date in the first line on the first page. It's correct.
And there it is! Available on amazon, or from me, and eventually at special stores here in Lenoir. Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon. Illustrated by Bobbie Gumbert, written (and revised) by me. < smiling like the Cheshire Cat >

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Cover Reveal

Full disclosure, I'm not an artist. Or a cover designer. I only know what I want and simply work toward that goal.

That being said, let me introduce you to my newest book cover, which I put together myself (ta-da) using a page from the book's illustrations by Bobbie Gumbert.


Only what she drew had the moon in an inconvenient spot in order to insert the title.


So I manipulated and deleted and layered this other moon from a photograph I had on hand.


Working with the subtitle and our names was the tricky part, until I finally figured out layering a background strip for the words would be the best solution. 

So there it is.

And here, at my house behind me as I type, are the copies waiting in a big box for Tuesday's book launch. Your invitation:
August 14
Drop in from four until six in the afternoon
My Happy Place Art Gallery
on the square in downtown Lenoir, North Carolina

Join the fun. There will be mini-Moon Pies. There will be Tang. (If you are old enough, you know the significance of Tang being the drink of choice.) I've planned activities, and I've checked the weather...which so far is cooperating. No mission scrub planned. (If you are old enough, you know the meaning of that comment.)

And best news, for a special, launch day only surprise, you can purchase it at the bargain basement sale price of five dollars! When I autograph your copy, I'll let you in on the secret reason why it's at a cut-rate price. It's also on Amazon,  Back on Earth When Men First Landed on the Moon, and more details are now updated on my website, gretchengriffith.com

I consider myself a storycatcher, so you can imagine I can't wait until Tuesday to catch a few stories about your experiences nearly fifty years ago, back on earth when those men first landed on the moon. Bring the kids. They need to hear the stories, too. Hope to see you then!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Liftoff! We have Liftoff!

I'm deep in the planning stages of the launch for my new picture book that was released August first. Launch is the perfect word for sending this particular book off into the world. It is an optimistic word, full of hope and energy. I use it a couple times in Back on Earth: When Men First Landed on the Moon, when the launch happens, and again in the glossary at the end, that I don't call a glossary. It's the "Learn the Words We Learned" page. Also included at the back of the book, "Watch What We Watched" for sources on YouTube the child can view, and "Talk to Us about Apollo Eleven," with suggestions for interviewing and ways to start the conversation.
A sample of the artwork by illustrator Bobbie Gumbert
I designed it to be a conversation starter between the generations. This time I tried something new. I wrote the book in first person, plural...we...us...our...to draw the reader into our lives way back when. It's about our experiences here on planet Earth as we marveled and fretted and waited (and waited and waited) for the astronauts to walk on the moon, almost fifty years ago.

I'm in the process of picking and choosing moon related activities to get the children interested at the launch. On the menu, Moon Pies, the miniature kind, chocolate or banana flavored. I've ordered parachute men for the children to land on a target. And launchers that send nerf rockets a few feet into the air (and down into a basket). I'll have paper and pencil and old fashioned tape recorders to catch stories from those who remember the day oh so many years ago when America accomplished the impossible.

So if you are available on Tuesday afternoon, August 14, drop in any time between four and six at an art gallery on the square in Lenoir called My Happy Place. I'm hoping for clear skies so we can go outside to do the happy thing called space games and launch this book off right!!

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Making of a Back Cover

There's been a full moon this week, a beautiful full moon. I'm more conscious of it probably because my picture book about the Apollo Eleven mission to the moon is about to launch. I took a picture of it just to remind myself how beautiful life is.

I did the same thing last November during the "super" moon phase, and here it is.
Simple, isn't it? Moon. Sky. Trees. 
I realized this photograph was just what I needed for the back cover of the moon book. It was positioned exactly in the right spot with ample room for backflap text. But when I inserted it into the template and placed it beside the front cover, it seemed a little off. The front is an illustration, not a photograph and they didn't match.

After a few trials on other options, I returned to this photograph and tampered with it. Toyed around. Played. And I ended up with this.
See the difference?
Next I inserted the words and TA-DA, back cover!

But when I look at the almost full moon tonight, I'll not be thinking book cover. I'll be looking at it and appreciating it for the beauty it is.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Inside Spring Creek School

There's a wall.

It's inside a school that once was. Spring Creek School. Madison County. Far western mountains of North Carolina.

In the days that used to be, this wall framed the center of student flow in and out of classrooms, and echoed all the noises that typically turn an institution into a beloved fixture. I write about the school in the book I co-authored with a man who once walked between the walls as a student in the thirties and forties.
After the school closed towards the end of the last century, it sat dormant, a sleeping beauty waiting for the right prince to come along and resurrect it. Prince Charming turned out to be a committee of concerned citizens who witnessed the decay of this building first hand and worked hard to reclaim it for their community. Let me repeat. Worked hard.

Now the building is alive again, and the inside wall is framed with frames. It echoes happy voices of visitors exclaiming over photographs they had never seen or sharing memories of things they had seen. 
The wall is coated with pictures of individuals and old churches and one room schoolhouses, along with a photographic chronology of Spring Creek School itself. To top it all off, there are histories of many families who lived in the local area. The one featured at the beginning of this photograph is the family of Dr. Bernie Reese, the medical part of the book's subtitle. The second frame on the bottom row contains a newspaper article about the book and its recognition from the North Carolina Society of Historians.
The Madison County native that article refers to is that same little boy I mentioned earlier, grown into an eighty plus year old man, (J.B. as most people in Spring Creek remember him) Jasper Reese. I was fortunate to help him capture the story of this section of the world in the book we wrote, Back in the Time. The subtitle (and the wall of the school) tells it all, Medicine, Education and Life in the Isolation of Western North Carolina's Spring Creek. Here he is standing in front of the portraits of his parents and the write-ups of the Reese family's contributions to the community.
As I've walked through odds and ends of old buildings I've often thought, "If these walls could talk, what story would they tell me?" In this place, the walls do silently talk, and they tell a beautiful history of a unique people.

If you ever find yourself on North Carolina Scenic Highway 209 that runs from Lake Junaluska to Hot Springs, stop in at the school. There's a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. There's a tiny library manned by volunteers. There's a gymnasium for exercise or for receptions or reunions. There are small rooms for smaller meetings.

And there's a wall. It's a you've-just-got-to-see-this kind of wall. 

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book Signings

Yesterday I attended what I'd consider an author's dream and an author's nightmare...a highly successful book signing by Robert Beatty for his newest release, Willa of the Wood.

I'd only wish for the crowds he has drawn on his book tour this week. Barnes and Noble was so packed, I couldn't even see the book stacks for the masses standing in front of them. They had food and games to entertain, if a person could wade through the crowd to get to them. Most of all, they had lines. Lines to purchase a book (I had preordered), lines for the food, and the most important line, for the book to be signed. That was accomplished with orderly chaos, colored bracelets. Mine was white, reserved for those who preordered, and rewarded with first in line status.

When Mr. Beatty spoke, his voice came over the store intercom. I suppose that was him, but I couldn't tell. I was behind the paperbacks, standing in line with my granddaughters. He answered questions from those who were fortunate enough to be close enough for him to point at. Then he started signing books. Each person filled out a form as to how the book would be signed and handed it to the person beside him who in turn handed it to him, opened to the correct page. What a dream way to conduct a book signing!

Finally it was our turn.
That's my Reagan, isn't she grand standing next to the author!

We walked out of the store happy, thrilled to be a part of getting excited about reading. That was all the dream part, the dream that far out paces the nightmare I bet this man experienced when it was all said and done...written and done. He was bound to have a sore wrist. How could he not? I feel for him. A week of repetitive action on that wrist, gripping that pen. Wow.

Thing is, he gladly did it. Graciously. He spoke to the individual. He cared about their reading habits. He gave my grands a reading experience. Thank you, Robert Beatty.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen