Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Habitat Hat

I like to say I wear many hats. There's my author hat I put on long before I get up in the morning as I toss and turn and head-write the grandest of all paragraphs that I forget by dawn.

There's my family hat, wife, mother, granny. There's my church lady hat that turns into earmuffs during the Christmas Trail performances.

Now I have a Habitat Hat. Make that a Habitat HARD Hat.
So there I am at the ground breaking ceremony for the Habitat for Humanity's Women's Build. Note the hat.

Let me back up and explain that during 2017 my husband and I were advocates for a Habitat family. We attended classes sitting beside them and were supposed to advise them, but instead we learned along with them, things that I wish I had known when we were young and starting fresh in a new house, things we still hadn't picked up on but made do instead.
With our wonderful Habitat family
The most delightful part of the process, beyond getting to know a really super family, was being with them when they selected the nitty-gritty of their house, the siding, the cabinets, the flooring, those kinds of fun things. It was at that session that we were told this house would be special.

Their house would be built entirely by women.

And so the hoopla began. Pictures of them choosing their lighting fixtures. Pictures of us watching them pick their lighting fixtures. Grand Ground Breaking complete with t-shirts all around and plastic, decorative hard hats that would never pass OSHA safety regulations, but sure did look good for the newspaper. Yes. Front page of the newspaper.
By the way, that's my husband in the bottom left picture, wearing his pink Habitat man's shirt and hard hat. Here's a better shot, so note the saying on the back.
I don't know enough about building to be the one to say "Yes Ma'am" to, but I'm game to pick up a hammer and pound a few nails. I'll keep you posted about that. It's going to make a good story.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Little Read, Big Deal

The recent Little Read event in the Caldwell County School System here in western North Carolina proved to be much more like a Big Deal event for me as the visiting author. The concept is fantastic, a huge shout out to whoever conceived it. Every fourth grader in the county reads the same book, discusses it with each other, and meets the author...Me!

The book they chose? When Christmas Feels Like Home and it isn't even Christmas, which in the end proved to be an advantage. The students could focus on the theme of the story rather than the frame I built it around.
It's all about being comfortable in new situations. In my powerpoint presentation I showed (basic rule of writing, show don't tell) them my experiences living and going to school abroad, just like Eduardo in the book. I had them experience being in class when they couldn't understand anything the teacher said as I recited a selection I had memorized in French class all those many years ago.

And they got it. THEY GOT IT!!!

From that little language experiment, they understood what Eduardo went through when he first came to America. We had fun going through figurative language and miscues I wrote in the first few drafts of the book. I let them in on a few background secrets, like the holly misplaced on the Thanksgiving table.
And the name changes of the characters...and the title.

They had worked through activities based on the book created by my teacher/daughter-in-law.


They asked questions at the end. Great, well thought-out questions that were an extension of what we had discussed. After I introduced my other books, the question came (in all six presentations at the various schools) "Which one is your favorite?" which I always threw back to them, "It's like asking your mother or grandmother who is your favorite. I love them all the same."

The question I had most fun with was "How old are you?" 

The first time, I answered truthfully and they collectively gasped! So I came up with "I'm a grandma, so I'm about the same age as your grandmas" Yuk, yuk to that. Some of their grandmas are in their thirties!

Being a grandma is fun. I can love on the little ones and send them back home with their parents.

Being a visiting author is the same kind of fun. I enjoyed those fourth graders and realized there were parts of teaching I missed. But then, when we were finished, I waved goodbye to them all and sent them back to class with their teachers. 

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Helen Hall's My Story Memoir

One of the fun sides of being a self-published author is helping others to accomplish their goal of publishing a book. Last fall a former teacher/friend in the county, Dr. Helen Hall, contacted me about a memoir she had completed and was seeking help with getting out into the world. I love being the midwife in a birth such as this!

We had several formatting sessions at her house. Her vision of the book included a hardback cover, something I had never done. In fact, in the end, we had to go with a company I had never worked with, but about which I had heard only good things, Lulu. We were not disappointed, especially when the process was nearly the same as my earlier comfort zones.

Helen's daughter, Sigrid, designed the cover. Didn't she do a grand job?


The back cover contains a family picture, because, bottom line, the beginnings of her life story is centered around this very group. 

Of course there were glitches in getting this book out. There were days of doubting this would ever come to pass. There were decisions to make, from major ones, which photographs to include, to minor ones, which font (which wasn't all that minor after all!). 

Strange thing, I did not read the book at this point. I wasn't the editor. I helped with interior design. I read a paragraph here and there when we had issues with spacing or widows and orphans (technical term I throw in to say we were on top of this!). But I did not read the actual My Story: This is How It Was until the first shipment of books arrived at her home and I had a personally autographed copy in my hands.

Oh what a story! Her subtitle, This is How It Was, was so aptly chosen. She made growing up Phillips sound like the most wonderful, exciting experience ever, while at the same time holding very little, if any, of the negatives back. She gives a rarely revealed insight to life in a rural black community in the days of segregation, including the many accompanying challenges. This Dulatown community defined her even further beyond her family. Like her parents, it nurtured her and prepared her to face the realities of the outside world. You'll just have to read this story!

So now Helen Hall, like the published author she is, celebrates. 

She held an audience spellbound at her first outing of the book this past week. The presentation was taped, so click on over to Youtube and experience it yourself.



 She signed books and ran out, returning to her home to bring more copies. 

Some stories just need to be shared. This is one. I feel humbled and proud that I had a small part in it.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Donkey's Tale


Once upon a time there was a donkey named Jake minding his own donkey business in the field, chomping on hay, warding off coyotes, braying his opinions every now and then, when what to his enormous long ears would he hear but the clank and the clatter of the horse trailer being moved. 

Being the curious donkey he was, he trotted over to investigate this noise. His owner lured him closer with the largest, most delicious looking carrot his eyes had ever beheld, so he followed the bait up the waiting ramp. A slam behind him mattered not. His attention was on the treat. The trailer beneath him moved. He chomped on. The trailer stopped. The back opened and he unloaded, fully expecting more food, an apple or two for his trouble.

A man and a woman approached. He lifted her onto Jake's back and tugged on the reins. Jake obediently followed…and followed…and followed. Over and over and over again that night they went down the same path. Crowds watched them and expressed delight. He ate his treats and his belly filled. When the evening ended, Jake loaded back onto the trailer and returned to his pasture.


A few days later, the same strange event occurred again. He was whisked away and brought back, but this time the thrill faded. “No more,” he vowed in his jackass of a brain.

The next afternoon, when he heard the clink and the clatter of the horse trailer, he ran the other way. He absconded. He didn’t know the word, but he lived the definition, to depart secretly and hide oneself. Absconded.

The owner searched and searched to no avail. Text number one to the pageant director: We can’t find Jake anywhere.

No worries. The afternoon was still young.

Two hours later and darkness descending, text number two: Never did find that dumb ass. Looked everywhere.

Mary and Joseph walked that night.

When the trailer clanked its presence the next night, final performance by the way, Jake had returned. He was ready. The lure of the snacks beckoned him once again and the prodigal donkey came back. He acted his part as if nothing had ever happened and charmed the audience. When it was over and he received the loving pats from actors along the trail, Jake returned to his pasture and to doing what donkeys do to keep warm in the cold, dark days of winter.

There’s bound to be a moral to this story. If I were Aesop, I’d come up with one for sure.

But I can’t. For you see, I was the pageant director on the receiving end of the “We can’t find Jake anywhere” text. I was the one who fretted over that absconding donkey knowing the disappointment of the children in the audience expecting to see a furry creature in the scene. We made do, although he was truly missed.


Strange thing, though. I wasn’t mad at that stubborn donkey who was acting like an ass acts. I was jealous. He did what I wish I could do sometimes when things don’t go my way. He took off for the hills. He didn’t have the ability or the desire to know what he was doing to the rest of us in the pageant. He just wanted to escape. He didn’t have the capacity or the humanity to realize how much his presence meant to us. He just wanted away from the madness.

The real bottom line of this story is that Jake came back. I’ll never know what was going through his mind that led to his decision to return, but I can guess. I think he took that time to renew himself. He needed a break from the spinning world. We all do.

Returning is a courageous but necessary act. If any of you want to pull a Jake, I say go for it in your own time…after you tell someone …after you prepare. Take a breather for an hour or two, but know you are needed. Refresh. Come back strong.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen