Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Under the Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas Everyone! For your Christmas pleasure, here's a picture from one of my critique partners of the trees in her house. The ceramic tree on the right was crafted by my mother's cousin who just happens to be the topic of my next book. Isn't this a picture to remember on Christmas morning!
I hope each of you woke to a day of beauty and promise. I did, and this blessed morning I am a little more excited than usual.  Under several Christmas trees in homes scattered throughout the area are copies of Lessons Learned. I know because I wrote the Merry Christmas greeting to the recipient.

I'm awed at the thought, a little apprehensive, but nonetheless, awed. Humbled, too, definitely humbled. I want to be there and experience the moment with each person. Are the books wrapped in silver paper with a red bow trim? Are they in Santa gift bags stuffed with green striped tissue paper? Or, are they plain, handed straight from one friend to another, no wrapping or formalities necessary?

Most of all, will the person be thrilled or disappointed? That's where my apprehension lies, to not know if it will it be tossed to the corner, forgotten in the stack of unread books from Christmas past or be eagerly opened, devoured and savored as much as the Christmas feast will be in a few hours.

That's one lesson I've learned this year. Once a book has launched, it's gone. Sometimes I get feedback, mostly not. I have to trust and believe that what I have presented is worthy of a spot under someone's Christmas tree.

Catch of the day,


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recitation and Declaration

Although children at Pilot Mountain School memorized everything from basic reading words to presidents to state captials, the majority of stories I caught about memorization was connected to the yearly competition known as Recitation and Declaration.

The upper grade children would select a piece of literature to memorize and present to a panel of judges. They studied. They memorized. They practiced. When competition day arrived, they had one chance to do it right. One chance.

The schools I personally attended growing up never adopted this recitation tradition. Oh, I had to memorize, especially the Psalms in eighth grade, and the Gettysburg address in maybe fifth grade. But as far as competition, no.

Perhaps I should have gone through this process because I had a chance to post a "read by author" segment of my book at Southern Writers Magazine online.
This month they opened their online "Take Five" to promote writers who are from the southern United States or who write about these southern states. I qualify on both counts, not born in the south, but raised here, the school certainly southern. The format is a five minute audio presented through a casual, "spend a few minutes listening to an author read her own work."

It sounded so simple. I knew my work, knew what segment I wanted to read. I practiced a bit, learned the system from my computer, and then started to record. The first time I finished maybe ten sentences before I pronounced a word incorrectly. The second, even less. The third, fourth, fifth...you get the picture. Four and a half hours later I made it through the entire five minutes, not perfectly, but acceptably.
Here's your invitation: Go to the Take Five page, find Lessons Learned and hear my voice as I read parts of several pages. While you are there, listen to the other authors as well. We want to do more than entertain. We want to share our books with you and in reality, share a bit of ourselves with you.

Just like those children performing in the Recitation and Declaration so many years ago.

Catch of the day,


Friday, December 7, 2012

The History Museum of Burke County

On this, the seventy-first anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, I will be surrounded by history and by history lovers. What better place to be than in a museum, the History Museum of Burke County!
Okay, so the picture is a little out of season, but that is the museum and I'll be there from one until seven this afternoon, along with several other local authors at a signing event. I appreciate the chance to be a part of this yearly event. I'm the newcomer to the crowd, yet they've accepted me with open arms.

Not only open arms, but with open books and open private collections, I might add. The folks at this museum were invaluable during the research phase of catching stories about Pilot Mountain School.

This is me on the ladder in the vault of the museum, downstairs in the dungeon where the precious records are preserved. Behind me are stacks and stacks of bound News Herald newspaper editions dating back to the eighteen hundreds. Although these are all on microfische in the county library's North Carolina room, I needed several original photographs, especially the one of the construction, the oldest picture available of the school. I found it here, in the museum.

In their education room I found a water color drawing of one of the old schools in the community that predated Pilot Mountain School, an 1885 water color drawing to be more precise. Could I use it for this project? I dared to ask. Yes, they graciously answered.

In yet another vault I discovered stacks and stacks of original ink drawings by the Burke County school superintendent from 1925 through 1963, Robert Patton, Jr. Again, permission asked and granted. What a time traveling experience that was, viewing local, state and national politics through the eyes of a very astute artist and his political cartoons. I selected two that fit into the narration of my text, but I could have picked a hundred and two.

Most of all, the docents and other volunteers at this museum helped me with fact checking my manuscript. They read over what I had written and pointed out places that needed rewording or re-researched.

Join me today and see what the museum is all about.

Catch of the day,


Monday, December 3, 2012

Saturday's Reading

The plan last Saturday was for me to read from my book, and I did, to a small but enthusiastic crowd at a coffee house called Java Journey. Since most of those in attendance weren't acquainted with Lessons Learned, I chose the selections with a lot of thought, looking for the uniqueness that makes this schoolhouse stand out from the rest, for reasons why people would want to open it and read further.

I found examples aplenty, starting with the year the school opened in 1942 and the war effort the teachers led on the home front. The children collected scrap metal to bring to school for the teachers to log the weight and reward them with a sweatshirt when they reached a particular level. The children brought nickels to buy stamps for their redemption booklets that the teachers held in a side desk drawer. As each child's booklet filled, they converted it to a War Bond. The teachers remained late after school and came to school on Saturdays to register families for their rationing books, using precious gasoline and rubber tire coupons to operate their personal vehicles to be at school to perform war time duties.

Establishing a cafeteria during war time rationing was next to impossible, as the readings I selected also showed. I read to the crowd about the barter system the school established and the home grown produce the workers served.

I could have read selections from the baby boomer years, from the desegregation years, from the final years when the school was converted to a junior high, or even from the more recent years when it has become a coffeeshop and reception hall. But instead I chose to read personal stories people told me about being a student at the school, stories like going to the gold mine holes and digging clay to take for art class, stories of being nervous for the yearly recitation and declaration contests, memories of feed sack clothes and wearing holes in pant legs from playing marbles on their knees.

All too quick my time was up. But I had so much more to read!

Next time.

Catch of the day,