Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

People often ask how long it takes me to write a book. That answer varies according to the book. The shortest was six months. The longest...well, let me tell you that story.

When my granddaughter was born nearly twelve years ago, my friends wanted to know what my son and his wife named her. I repeated the name so often, it soon became a habit to introduce myself as Gracie Griffith's grandma Gretchen Griffith. After even more repetitions I added grouchy and then grumpy, and I grinned. This is fun, I thought. It's a tongue twister, I thought.

It's a book, I thought.

I made a list of "gr" words and started thinking about how I could meld them together into a story. Thing is, most of the words on that list were along the negative, aligning with grumpy and grouchy. I don't write negative books, but I could write negative turned into positive books. I wrote, rewrote, revised, and let it sit for a few years as Gracie grew...ooh, a phrase I didn't use!

This picture book manuscript sat unused for years because I am not an artist. My canvas is on the computer screen, not on an easel. I paint pictures with words in a "word is worth a thousand pictures" kind of way.

Then the right artist came along, a student named Frankie Song. He brought my characters to life, Gracie, the grumpy grandma, the gray goat, the gray grasshopper, and the gray grouse. He made the green grass gray, just like I wanted.

He made the gray grass green, just like the story said.

And then he returned to China and left behind a set of individual pictures that needed to be put into picture book format. That's when artist number two came along, Tina Bryant. She took the pictures and wove them into the story, added her own background pictures, and TA-DA!!!

Gracie's Grumpy Grandma

Nearly twelve years later and it's a done deal, in my hands. It's on Amazon, I usually don't put the link straight on the page, but take a look at how it's written, I couldn't resist. That's the whole idea of the book!!! Amazon gets it, even if they don't know it.

The back cover fades out a bit to make way for the bar code, but you get the picture. Granny with her girls, Gracie and Reagan. And I'm not so grumpy after all.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Back in the Time

Back in the time, a couple of weeks ago to be specific, I launched my newest book,
  Back in the Time

A launch is a celebration of the birth of a book. This one, we did right. There was food. There were friends. The venue couldn't have been more welcoming...Caldwell County Senior Center. 

The book was hidden undercover until the big reveal
Co-author, Jasper Reese entertained us with his comments and stories about growing up in Spring Creek, the theme of the book. That's him on the cover, twelve years old after building his cart using gears from a textile plant's machine. This is him now, standing with me at the launch.

Needless to say, we had a great time kicking off this book. The star of the show, despite all the hoopla, was definitely the book. It's the story of Jasper's life, but more than that, it's the story of a community in the far back isolation of the mountains in western North Carolina. The subtitle tells it all: 
Medicine, Education and Life 
in the Isolation of Western North Carolina’s Spring Creek

Just in case you need more, as if, here's what we said on the back flap:

Spring Creek, North Carolina was more than a location. It was a real and natural, down-to-earth way of life that should never be forgotten. Jasper B. Reese, the son of a country doctor, reveals true stories of extreme hardships and joyful successes from back in the time when nothing was more important to the isolated Madison County mountain family than individuality, a self-sustaining life style and pride in the ability to go it alone.

One more thing, on the back flap is the portrait of a school, not just any school, Spring Creek School, the hub of the community. It was built in 1929 using rocks from local fields on the exterior. After decades serving the community children, it now has been converted into a community building.

I've given you a glimpse of the front and the back of this precious book. For the interior, see me today at the North Carolina Butterfly Festival here in Hudson, or find it on Amazon, just a click away.

Catch of the day,


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Happy Easter Sunday Morning!

Good morning to all.

I'm heading to the sunrise service at our church in a few minutes, then breakfast cooked by the men of the church featuring plenty of salty country ham and biscuits and sawmill gravy. Then to worship on this highest of holy days in the Christian calendar.

Yesterday I took the grands to an Easter Egg Hunt. They hunted with the dozens massed there at the church park. Easy finds for the very youngest with the eggs laying in plain sight on the grass. A little harder for the next to the youngest. And for my two grands, the true hunt and search for the oldest group in a completely different section, the trail through the woods. 

As we were eating the hot dog lunch, the exchange student from Japan living with our pastor asked the simple but necessary question. Why do the children hunt Easter eggs, followed by the next obvious question, Why is there an Easter bunny?

They looked at me. Shrugging was not an option.

How do you explain death on the cross and resurrection after three days?

We had taken the grands to the Seder meal Thursday evening where they were reminded about why Passover is celebrated even today. God instructed the people of Israel to teach their children about the hardships and sadnesses of being enslaved and escaping and wandering in the wilderness. There was no glossing over those facts.

So why, then, is the death of the Messiah glossed over with shiny eggs?

It's because the death was not the end. Sunday brought happiness and a new life. On that horrible Friday which we call Good Friday, his body had been taken to be buried in a cave, yet three days later it could not be found. He had risen. The Lord has risen indeed! 

New life. Today Christians celebrate new life. Maybe using a rabbit with plenty of life is the only way to explain this to children. Maybe hunting the eggs implants a searching mentality within them to always be on the lookout for the joy and the newness offered to them. 

When I watched the children yesterday, I was reassured of this hope. They will search for far greater things in their unfolding lives, things like love and truth and faith. I pray they find their answers in the cross.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 11, 2017


Overwhelmed author

No time for writer's block now

Self imposed deadline

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Three at Once

Am I crazy, or what?

I'm working on three major projects at the same time. I didn't set out to do it that way, the planets just aligned and the timing was right for all three to hit exactly at once. I can now sympathize with mothers of triplets. While I'm not getting the full effect to be certain, I at least have a glimpse at being tugged in three different directions.

Books are needy little children. They really are. They demand their rightful time, even the runt of the litter, my twenty-four page picture book. I started it when my first grandchild was born and people wanted to know her name. After a while I began introducing myself as Gracie Griffith's Grandma Gretchen Griffith, and the seeds of the book were planted. I reworked it through the years (she's ten now) to come up with a tongue twister of a picture book, Gracie's Grumpy Grandma. Ten years!
Is this grumpy enough?
The other two projects are nonfictions that demand more than their fair share of my hours before the computer. If I'm not fact checking for one, then I'm photograph hunting for the other. I interview a person for one book and mix in questions pertinent to the other. To confuse things even more, one I'm writing in present tense, and the other in past. I force my mind to change time zones more than I care to admit.

One project is on the verge of being completed. The only steps left are tweaking the back flap and a few issues with the interior. When I saw one particular picture, I knew it would be a perfect fit for the cover of the book. It embodies the title, Back in the Time, showing my co-author riding a cart on what he calls a major thoroughfare near his home back in the time. I can't wait for you to see how we incorporated it to form the cover. Trust me, we fixed the age related issues.

There's even a set of triplets in this book!
Which brings me to the third child of my threesome. It's not nearly as far along as these other two, and I'm not ready to share photographs as yet. I will toss out a teaser and say it's about motor racing here in western North Carolina, back in the time. Once again I'm co-authoring the book. I've worked with the author before on the Wheels and Moonshine book and even back then in the time he was working on this manuscript. I'm helping him to make it a reality, filling in the gaps with research and pictures beyond what he has on hand.

Birthing three books so closely together might be driving me up the wall (or in circles as in my racing book), but in the end, as with birthing anything new to the world, it will be so worth the effort.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 25, 2017

After the Fire

A string of forest fires across our western North Carolina mountains struck fear and dread into our hearts last fall. The worst my house got was the smell of burning wood, but my heart ached for those in the direct path of destruction. Fires don't discriminate. They choose whatever is before them. Only the forest service firefighters stood between the all consuming wall of fire and the next house on the list, or the next nest on the list. Squirrels have homes in the forest, too. And deer. And foxes.

Walking outside during one particular week was not only smelly, but also dangerous for those with lung issues. My eyes burned as well, tearing up often and not necessarily in sympathy for the losses. I had written about these South Mountains in my Lesson's Learned book, so I felt a kinship to this land abundant with stories for a story catcher to catch.

Finally a week of rain stopped the onslaught and the nearest fire to me was pronounced contained. So I forgot all about it, as people often do about tragedies when they aren't directly affected. Until last week.

I had a chance to join up with the Foothills Nature Conservancy. and hike their property bordering the South Mountain State Park that just so happened to back last fall's Chestnut Ridge fire line.

That would be me closest to the camera, listening to directions

The hike was three and a half miles uphill all the way. Well, it seemed like that anyway. The plot of land where we hiked followed the watershed up the side of the mountain, although we hiked along an old logging road, the very one firefighters followed to battle the fire. Where we were was in the back-lit area, the part that was intentionally set to burn out any fuel that the encroaching fire would need. 

What I saw was a bit of burnt wood and a whole lot of spring trying to reclaim its rightful place. Things had been purified by the fire. The brush had burned away leaving the sturdy plants there.

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Bark on healthy trees is thick enough to withstand a tremendous amount of burn, the man explained.  I could see that for myself. The crown in the trees were beginning to waken after their winter dormancy. Green will soon replace the charcoal. Life was returning, of that I felt assured.

Except for one thing. Other than our footfalls and acorn crunching, there was no noise. None. No birds chirping. No squirrels scampering up the sides of oak trees. No lizards scurrying away. Nothing, not even the cry of a hawk or a crow in the distance. When we stood still, we stood absolutely still. That's an odd kind of silence that is noticeable to those of us from modern civilization not accustomed to dead silence. Dead. Silence.

Maybe on top of that hill my brain felt reassured that life would go on, but my heart ached for the creatures that were displaced. Come back, come back, I wanted to shout. It's over. It's gone. The ground has been purified for you and it's better than ever. It is safe now. Bring back your children. There are plenty of untouched acorns waiting for a woodsy feast. 

It's all part of nature's plan. Life goes on.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, February 18, 2017


Yesterday I put in a few hours at an art co-op called My Happy Place Gallery where my books are for sale. I do appreciate this group and their decision to include my work as art, because, indeed, there is a creative process to what I do.

There I stood, surrounded by beauty, talking with others, basking in things grander than me, when I heard the oddest sound, a soft, rolling in the throat kind of noise, gentle yet so out of place in the shop. I thought the stereo system was on the blink since the music for the first time that day had ended allowing me to hear this oddity. My co-volunteer noted my scrunched up, questioning face.

"It's the birds," she explained. "Doves. Pigeons, who knows...They coo. That's what you're hearing."

Now a good storycatcher doesn't exactly take something like that as fact without investigating, so I went to the alley outside to find out for myself.

I searched for the birds. 

I found them.

They have found their happy place.

And a zoomed-in shot:

I look so forward to establishing a distant relationship with these two turtledoves...okay, pigeons. To think they chose the one spot on earth called My Happy Place Gallery to call home.

How poetic!

Catch of the day,