Saturday, March 28, 2015




What a week this has been! Because...Ta-Da! I have a new book to tell you about, my brand new, just on the market ebook. So it doesn't fit my blog's subtitle, The storycatcher looks at life in rural North Carolina in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. Not at all. But that's okay. I write what I enjoy writing.

This, my newest book, is a short little ditty with a contemporary setting, three children going on a hike - in the present tense of 2015, no historical nonfiction here. Not only that, my plan is to have it in ebook format only, not even publishing into print, a concept totally alien to the people of the years I usually post about.

Repeat: Ta - Da! Now presenting, my newly released kindlekid book, Hoop Hike. And, shhh! Don't tell my granddaughter, Reagan. I wrote this book for her next birthday, so it's a surprise.

The rest of the story is that I wrote it for her Christmas present, but time was too pressed and it just didn't happen until this week. But let me tell you the real rest of the story.

I wrote the manuscript last summer, although it had been rolling around my mind long before I ever opened a fresh page on the computer...long before. Back when I was teaching fourth grade, (in another century) I always took my students on a field trip to Tuttle Educational State Forest. One of the learning activities was to walk on the "talking tree" trail with hoops. The children threw their hoops into the woods and then listed (and charted or graphed) whatever they found inside their hoops. Answers often ranged all the way from worms and acorns to litter and rotten apple cores. 

So I imagined three children doing a similar hoop hike, but without the graphing requirements relating to school activities. Just for fun. I added my creative granddaughter, Reagan, using her imagination and finding what only she could see...well, when you read the book, you'll get the idea.

During a visit with my cousin, Gerald Gumbert, and his artistic wife, Roberta, aka, Bobbie, I happened to mention, as part of the conversation, that I had this manuscript but no illustrations. It was a peanut butter/jelly kind of moment, a melding of like minds, that moment when life hands you a special treat. We talked. We meshed. We developed a plan.

She came up with the characters and started the illustrations. Thank you Bobbie for your hard work!

Meanwhile I took a class on how to publish on kindlekids called Kindle Kids Mastery Course. Best money I've spent in a long time! I referred to it over and over as I practiced uploading the delightful pictures Bobbie sent me, and practiced again in formatting the text. This past Monday, when I settled in front of my techie cousin's computer with him at my side, I was ready. Well, sort of. It was a learning experience, to say the least, a seven hour learning experience which would have been made easier had I formatted the pictures correctly instead of waiting until I was ready to insert them. I spent most of the time cropping, checking on how it looked, cropping again, and replacing. We did it, and thank you, Gerald, for your much needed expertise. 

I decided to select from the kindlekid cover templates using a cropped corner taken from one of the pictures Bobbie had sent me. Easier said than done, because I had to work around the background picture to insert the wording. I wanted to use a pinkish color on the cover, Reagan's favorite, but again, working around the background colors, that was a no and I went with the more neutral shades.
There's nothing neutral about the colors of these illustrations.
I've inserted another picture here to tease you. That's Lou, finding crayfish in his hoop. And yes, I used the word crayfish, not crawfish or crawdad. Growing up with a creek in my backyard, I heard the "crayfish" word, most often used by my mother screaming when I appeared at the backdoor with one pinched between my fingers.

I'm a little sad whenever I finish a project. I spend a lot of time with the characters, this time with Sue and Lou and Reagan Roo. They have become my friends and I will miss them, but now they are yours. In the end, that's what publishing a book is all about, creating and sharing.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Book Club

When I was a youngster back in the late fifties, early sixties, my mother belonged to a book club, the Athenean Book Club to be exact. I loved the name even though I could never pronounce it or spell it. That's the official spelling...I checked. She just called it "Book Club" and so did I. 

I always was in awe watching her on meeting days, dressing to the nines. This was her social outlet, the meeting of like minds, the escape from drudgery of day to day motherhood and teacherhood. Oh, how she enjoyed it. She relished the thought of sitting in someone's living room talking about book related issues. She cherished the friendships she developed. I do believe the dream house my parents built was designed around her need to host book club once a year. They were sure to include a formal living room, "the preacher parlor" my father called it even though the preacher rarely came calling. It was book club that came calling instead.

She fretted over having a clean house and our spring cleaning revolved around her designated Saturday, no matter what the season. The person hosting didn't serve the refreshments, only the beverage. The co-host supplied the food, which was good news for my non-chef mom.  Even yet, this was my mother's chance to be proper. We ironed the linen napkins. We brought out the best heirloom china we had and carefully washed each cup and saucer, removing all dust that had accumulated since last book club. Paper plates weren't that popular in those days and even if they were, not in our home, not that day. Plastic spoons to stir the coffee, never!

Let me assure you, all that preparation didn't detract from the purpose - reading. Different book clubs have different approaches, I've come to find out. Some have members all reading the same book so they can discuss it together. Some have themed years zeroing in on a particular author or genre.

The Athenean book club of that era had a simple format. Each January, or was that September, every member donated one book to be passed around. Members selected a book from the stack, took it home, read it and brought it back the next month.  At the end of the year, the books returned to the original owner. Since there were more than twelve members, there were plenty of books to select from each month. As I grew older, I helped her decide which book to submit. That was our bonding time, I suppose, as we discussed literature. She took it very seriously, but for me, it was also an easy gift that made shopping a lot easier.

I write all this to say that today, I am the guest speaker at my mother's book club. After all these years it's still going strong. I moved away when I went to college and never moved back. Mama passed away in 2003, so I lost connection with my hometown, Walkertown, a little community outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This promises to be a much overdue reconnection that I am so needing. 

Wonder how things have changed since the sixties. The format, the formality, the books they read, what will be different, what will be the same? This I do know, the love of reading lives on.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day

To all you math lovers out there, Happy π Day!

This calls for a celebration, an extra big celebration because this is a once in a century π day year. March 14, 2015, when scripted in full numbers, π style, reads 3.1415, to the first four places. Once upon a time I memorized further than that, but 3.14 served me well through my various math classes, so I eventually forgot all about the next two digits, much less the long string after.

Too bad it's on a Saturday when teachers can't exploit the day. Yesterday, unlucky Friday the 13th, was a teacher workday here in my county with no school for students, so they couldn't do a "Happy π minus one day." I'm guessing π minus two just didn't have the same effect.

Did the children at Pilot Mountain School celebrate π day? No. According to a news article in this morning's paper, π Day began in 1980, several years after the school closed. Besides, the teachers there were no nonsense, drill, drill, drill kind of teachers. That was the pedagogy of the times. Those children learned the good old way, by getting noses into books and practicing. Never mind those children who learned through a different approach. They were held back year after year, until they learned the way schools taught. Or until they dropped out.

Filling the classrooms with circles and pies and strings to measure around the circles three point one four times didn't happen.

Or did it?

From my interviews I found teachers at this school who were innovative, who went to great lengths to convey concepts. They taught in parables, applying what these farm children already knew to what they were learning.

I have no doubt one of the first jokes the children there learned was the same one I learned:

  • Pie are square. No they're not. Pie are round.

I also have no doubt one of the teachers came to school with string and pie pans and did a little π lesson. Maybe not on π Day. Maybe just on an ordinary, time to learn a lesson day. 

Teachers do that.

Oh, and tomorrow is March 15. English teachers beware.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ruritan Club

Breakfast is almost ready, so I'll be quick.

On the menu: country ham, pork tenderloin, bacon, livermush, sausage, eggs, grits, pancakes, cooked apples, homemade biscuits, gravy, so I'll be even quicker.

Today's the first Saturday of the month and that means breakfast with the Ruritan Club. My husband's a member, so he left before the crack of dawn. His assignment is to cook the bacon, and believe me, he'll come home reeking of bacon and country ham.

This monthly fundraiser has become a social event for the community. I meet up with friends that I don't see that often and we sit at the club house and chat for a couple hours as others come and go. What a leisurely way to spend a Saturday morning in small town America.

Ruritan. It's name alone conjures images of cows and green pastures. Rural is the root of this coined word and the root of the purpose. What began in the nineteen twenties as a civic club serving the communities in rural America has broadened into urban areas - without losing the small town smallness that is unique to the organization. 

From the club's website:
  • Ruritan's purpose is to create a better understanding among people and through volunteer community service, make America's communities better places in which to live and work. The slogan of Ruritan is "Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service." Club membership represents a cross-section of the community in which the club serves, and is not restrictive with regard to occupation, social position, or any other specific criteria.

The Pilot Mountain School community also had a Ruritan Club, "had" being the operative word. It was organized there at the school, led by Frank Baker, the man who donated the land on which the school is located. It was an active club for years, although organizing men who work in the fields after working an eight hour shift at the furniture factories was no easy task. Talk about herding cats! 

As demographics changed, so did the need for civic response, and membership declined until eventually the Pilot Mountain Club folded. The club here in my community is still active, although also experiencing a decline in membership. For now, though, it works on, serving breakfast and serving the community.

Breakfast is ready. Gotta go.

Catch of the day,