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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Leisure Reading

Hidden deep in last Saturday's newspaper among reports of unrest and uproars and demonstrations was what I consider the saddest, most tragic headline:
What??? It's beach season, for heaven's sake, book and water bottle season, with a little wine on the side for good measure. While children splashing through the waves provide background noises and teens offer up the coconut laced suntan lotion smells, I sit beneath the umbrella, basking in the shade and reading a book. That's leisure.

I get to visit other lands while my toes sink into the grains of sand beneath my beach chair. I invade other people's thinking. I expose myself to new points of view. I learn a thing or two about the how the world works for someone else and how people react, and consequently how I would react. I absorb countless facts and remember enough to make better sense of situations I encounter. That's what leisure reading is all about, well, that and a good plot, and exciting characters.

Please, world, I beg you. Don't stop reading. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow, because you'll find someone's tomorrow in the pages of any book you pick up. Or maybe your own tomorrow.

This Fourth of July holiday, pick up a book and exercise the freedom of the press. After all, the freedom to write doesn't mean anything unless there is a reader waiting on the other side.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dr. Carswell, the Video

As I was working on the Dr. Jane Carswell project, Dr. Beth Davison, director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Appalachian State University, was working on a project of her own, a video that tells the life of this extraordinary physician. She prepared a tribute to Dr. Carswell that we debuted at the museum last week. Today she sent a link to me to share with the world, which I am more than thrilled to do. Oh. My. Take a look at this:
We worked a bit together, Beth and I did. She made use of several photographs I had sent her and I made use of her interviews with friends that knew Jane well. She read through my manuscript's chapters and harvested information from them to include in snippets throughout the video. I quoted from the interviews she had painstakingly taped.

Thing is, we ended up with two different products. They overlap, but stand alone.

I never imagined myself writing a biography, yet here it is. I sure picked a whopper of a subject to start with, didn't I?

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Yesterday at the Museum

Amazing.

That's yesterday pared down to one word. Just amazing.
Last spring when we set June 20 as the date for featuring my newest book, Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend, I began the planning process, what to say, what not to say as I narrowed this extraordinary biography into a thirty minute presentation. Then I became caught up in last minute necessities of getting a book on the market and the excitement of the launch and a couple of week-long, much needed vacations. Yesterday came suddenly and now that it's over I can sigh and reflect and fill you in on the details.

Each month the Caldwell Heritage Museum here in Lenoir, North Carolina, features a "Coffee with the Curator" morning break introducing some aspect of history in our county. Curator Cindy Day meets, greets, and eats doughnuts with the visitors. I've attended many events and find them all to be entertaining beyond informative. My hope was to not only inform, but to honor the remarkable doctor I had written about. I think we did that.

I say "we" because there were others present who honored Dr. Carswell. The museum itself had a display about her and two other women doctors who blazed the trail for future women doctors in our community.

Dr. Beth Davison, the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Appalachian State University, and family friend of Dr. Carswell's, debuted a video she had prepared for the occasion. She included interviews with Jane Carswell's husband, Kenneth Roberts, along with several others who knew her well. Beth came to the launch back in May and videotaped an interview with me and included snippets from that in this presentation.

So then it was my turn to speak, and speak I did, to the packed room. (We even had to add more chairs!)
I described Dr. Jane Carswell with verbs. Adjectives just didn't fit. True, she was remarkable, outstanding, exceptional and every other matching synonym under the sun. But those words fell short and didn't give the description I wanted to paint. Instead I used persevered, advocated, fought, pushed, diagnosed, delivered, responded, and developed, words that gave the listener (and my readers) a complete picture of this remarkable, outstanding, exceptional physician.

As I was writing the book, I interviewed many people who set the tone from the very beginning. They made comments like:

Faith based compassion...

Servant's heart...

Caldwell County is a healthier environment because Jane Carswell came to live here...

This organization would not be viable without her vision and continuing encouragement...

Cast a shadow...

She was just a force...

She knew the meaning of the word servant...

As I read the comments aloud, along with several others, I paused between each for the listener to soak in the mood, the tone of the book and my speech. I wanted most of all for them to realize the book was a call to action, just like the verbs. It shows the unselfish life of a beloved physician, and my prayer is that it inspires the reader to take up the call and, like Jane Carswell, make the world a better place to live.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Launched!

This past week we launched my latest book, Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend and had a wonderful time doing it during a meet, greet and eat social sponsored by the ladies of Fairview Presbyterian Church here in Lenoir. I had fun keeping the cover hidden under a cloth until the big reveal (that met with cheers and applause, by the way).
 I filled the crowd in on the purpose of the book (to share the life story of a beloved physician) and the format I chose to include quotes and nature photographs at the beginning of each chapter. We talked with people about their memories of Jane and how she impacted the community. Her husband Kenneth also spoke.
I met several people I had only spoken with on the phone during our interview time. I also met a character from chapter seven, Rufus the puppet. He was the feature of the Happy Hands Puppet Ministry.
Isn't he a cutie? Dr. Carswell wrote the scripts for the puppet shows and made sure Rufus was the bumbling doofus who was wise beyond what people imagined.

So now the book is out and about and doing its own thing. I'm thrilled, but also a little nervous. Did I do Jane's story justice? Did I offend anyone in the process? Did I correct all the typos? Did I leave anyone out in the acknowledgements? And the list goes on, mostly in the wee hours of the morning.

One thing I do know, this book needed to be written. Her life was too exceptional not be shared and her accomplishments too great not to be spotlighted.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend

It's finally here, the day I can say to you, THE BOOK IS OUT!!!

Before I show you the cover, I want to talk you through the wonderful portrait of Jane that we chose to feature on the front.
The minute I saw this photograph I fell in love with it. I knew it would make a great cover, I just didn't know how it could be used. Before I turned it over to my book designer, Books That Matter, I needed to get the proper permissions. First I contacted the photographer, Spencer Ainsley, and he so graciously granted his permission. Then I contacted the Lenoir News-Topic, where the photograph appeared in 1984, and they so graciously also granted permission, along with several other photographs I used in the text.

Next I turned to my go-to person, Bill Tate, who restored the ancient, faded, cracked newspaper picture, doctored it up a bit, and colorized it. Isn't it perfect??? There Jane sits, in her office, at the desk that once belonged to her minister father.

Cover designer Kim tried several different approaches that I hemmed and hawed over, and oohed and aahed over. But when she coupled the above portrait with this photograph of a rose that Jane had taken herself, I knew we had struck gold.


Isn't this a beauty of a rose! Merge the two together and TA-DA!!! May I present the cover:


Now available on Amazon and at odds and ends of places here in Lenoir.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part Three

Friend

In her left over time from being a physician and a humanitarian with numerous causes, Dr. Jane Carswell managed to develop many long lasting friendships. From what I figured out, a friendship with her meant going on a journey, whether hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or searching for a rare flower she hadn't photographed, or seeking answers to life's questions during a spiritual conversation. 
Here she is with friends identifying a rare Gray's Lily
along the Tanawha Trail in the Blue Ridge. This picture is in the book.
This picture of Jane hiking at the twin poplar trees is not in the book
since she was too hard to identify, but there she is in a local landmark.
After a brutal war between two Native American tribes, the elders twisted poplar trees together.
Generations later, the trees stand joined together as  a symbol of their peace treaty.
By the way, the three sections of the book are separated from each other with a title page sporting this rose, one of Jane's photographs. It's on the back cover, the inside title page, and all three section title pages. 

Part three of the book (Friend) is the shortest, three chapters long, or reworded, three long chapters, each packed full of life and love. 

Chapter 13, Friendship. This chapter tells about her love of roses and photography and travel and all things sport, and the friends who journeyed with her.

Chapter 14, Joy. I chose this chapter title because this is where she meets her true love and marries him...at age sixty-eight. It is a love story that will capture the reader's heart. 

Chapter 15, Retirement. What she accomplished in her retirement, as throughout her entire life, went beyond the norm, but this time, she had a partner. Their love story continued. Writing about her death sapped my energy. Reading about it will be uplifting.

So that's it, the entire book in three parts. I conclude with a nod to the many sources who helped me in this project and with a list of organizations that Jane was connected to, in case anyone feels led to step up and help out. It's what she would have wanted.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part Two

Humanitarian

Being a humanitarian wasn't exactly what Dr. Jane Carswell set out to be when she attended medical school. That just came naturally...because of her strong faith, and her belief that with faith comes action.

And act she did! Over and over during the interviewing stage of my research I heard people say, using their own variations of the concept, "If you look deeply enough, Jane's fingerprints will be on just about every cause in the area." I often felt like I was peeling an onion, there were so many layers. I said that to one man I was interviewing and he stopped me. "No. An onion is not a good analogy. She's more like a diamond with many, many facets." I checked online for diamond facets and found they are the surfaces that refract the light within the diamond and give off the spectrum of colors. Yep. That's Jane in her humanitarian causes. Not an onion. A diamond. She saw a need and she didn't just complain or tsk her tongue. She acted, and that action refracted all kinds of light here in Lenoir, North Carolina.

Chapter 7, Interracial Relations. She had experienced discrimination, and as it reared its ugly head in her community, she stepped out of her comfort zone and stood up to it. She drew people together in a common good.

Chapter 8, Shelter Home. "He really hit her hard, right in front of me. But she wouldn't press charges. She said she had to go home and live with him, that she didn't have any place else to go," said by Jane after her experience in the maternity ward as she visited with a new mother. An enraged Jane set out to create a place for her, and the many others like her, a shelter from the abuse she witnessed in many women seeking medical attention.
This portrait of Dr. Carswell hanging in the shelter home didn't make the cut in the book. The wooden carving that gives the name of the building, "The Jane Carswell House," didn't come out clear enough in the printing process, so we eliminated it.
The shelter home started a sign campaign to change from a culture of violence.
Chapter 9, Caldwell House. A halfway house for former drug and alcohol addicts that Jane worked with. After she retired from its board, she began writing the newsletter. She interviewed clients and wrote their stories as inspiration for the others. 

Chapter 10, Caldwell Friends. A big brother/big sister style organization for early teens where Jane volunteered much of her time.
Jane drew this picture of Caldwell Friends mascot Raydell.

Chapter 11, International Missions. Jane's experiences in the mission field could be a book in themselves, especially the robbery incident. 

Chapter 12, Helping Hands. In response to seeing the un-and-under-insured citizens in the county go without proper medical care, she worked with several other concerned physicians and nurses to create this program.

Chapter 13, Cradle-to-Grave. End of life issues were important to Jane. Her church sponsored a residential complex for seniors, Koinonia, where Jane visited clients on her "apartment" calls. A major end of life project, Caldwell County Hospice began with a group of people sitting in Jane's house and brainstorming what could be possible. 
I took this picture of the Hospice Angel in the lawn of the Caldwell Hospice.
It's not in the book, but I think it is a good example of what hospice means to so many people.
Another picture that didn't make the book was this one from the inside front of the hospice facility.
The building overlooks downtown Lenoir.
Another view from the upstairs windows of Hospice
with local landmark,
 Hibriten Mountain, in the distance.
If you need the definition of humanitarian, look no further than the life of this distinguished physician. Dr. Jane Carswell equals humanitarian.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part One

Family Physician

A book has to start somewhere, so why not at the beginning, unless the author takes a little liberty and does a bit of finagling. That would be me. I start this biography at the peak of Dr. Jane Carswell's career, after she has been acclaimed as the "1984 National Family Physician of the Year," and when she is speaking to the classes at the medical school she once attended. "Family medicine keeps one humble," she said. "Often you as a physician can do very little to help the patients, but they still give you their trust and share their joys and sorrows with you." She said it, and she believed it.

That belief came not only from her upbringing by two parents who devoted their lives to serving God, but also from her heritage and the long line of steadfast family members who helped make Jane Carswell who she was. So there. Chapter One, Heritage. Her mother's family called Williamsburg, Virginia home. Actually, they called the Peyton Randolph House home, where her great uncle, the mayor of Williamsburg, along with her aunt raised Madeline, Jane's mother, after her own mother was killed in a farm accident. It is now one of the restored houses open to the public for viewing. As her mother walked through the house on tour with Jane years later, she talked about living there before the village became the remarkable institution it now is. That alone is a book in itself.

Chapter Two, Childhood. Here's where the family values were instilled in Jane. She was born in 1932, so that put her square into the Great Depression as a baby, and into the homefront of World War II as a growing child. This chapter is mostly Jane's own recollections of growing up in the sandhills of North Carolina, written in speeches she gave at various church homecomings. 

Chapter Three, College. This is the only place in the entire book (beyond the preface) that I inserted something personal as a homage to being a fourth grade teacher. I'll let you seek out that on your own, but I will say that Jane attended Flora Macdonald College and wow, the stories from her experiences there! Strict Presbyterian Women's College. Dress code. Decorum code. Korean War era near the Fort Bragg military base. Add those together and there's a story. One of her required physical education classes was the Highland Fling, and that's part of the story.
No, Jane's not part of this 1946 picture, but she did have a kilt and the plaid.
When she was over seventy years old, she performed the fling for an astonished crowd of friends.
Chapter Four, University. She was female. She could not enroll in UNC Chapel Hill until her junior year, and even then she was in the minority, as at the Medical College of Virginia where she was one of five females in her class of a hundred. She learned what discrimination was all about.

Chapter Five, Kentucky. Her first job, that lasted only a year, but that's a different story. Bloody Harlan, Kentucky. As I wrote this chapter I couldn't help but sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's song that I grew up with, "Sixteen Tons." She didn't live in the community where that song originated, but the circumstances were the same where she did live.

Chapter Six, The Practice. She found her way to Lenoir, North Carolina and established herself as a physician of the highest degree. 

I can't wait for you to read these chapters to get to know the good doctor.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen













Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Carswell Book, Timeline

Early on we came up with a working title of the biography of Dr. Jane Carswell that we've kept without any variation because it says it all:
This is a portion of the front cover. I can't wait for you to see the rest of it! That's one of Jane's photographs of her roses in the background, by the way. But what I want you to notice is the subtitle, "Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend." She was a complicated individual who's life can be narrowed to those three simple words.

When I began structuring the book, I realized I could not do it in chronological order. Things overlapped. Things got muddled in a timeline. A day by day chronicle just wouldn't work for this book, so I did the book in parts, chunks of time that are independent of every other chunk of time.

Part One does follow a linear timeline, sort of, although I freely vacillate from one period of time in her life to another and then back to another. In the end, it  makes sense. For instance I wanted to include photographs of her parents and I put them in chapter two, her growing up chapter. But some of the photographs show her parents in their later years, and I mention them retiring and then list their death dates. But the next chapter picks up when Jane goes away to  Flora Macdonald College when her parents were very much alive and vibrant and getting her ready for college.

But it's in Part Two (Humanitarian) that the timeline loses its mind. It wanders back and forth and up and around. Each chapter starts with when Jane became involved with a particular cause and continues through that narrative, usually to the end of her life. Each following chapter does the same, goes back in time and picks up at the beginning and goes throughout the time she was involved in that project. Some chapters even go back into history and give the backstory of the situation so the reader can understand what Jane was facing.

Talk about a structure nightmare!!

Don't worry! Part Three (Friend) ties it altogether in a grand love story that will give purpose to all the wanderings in the wilderness.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Carswell Book, Quotations

As I was researching the book about Dr. Jane Carswell, I was fortunate enough to have abundant resources available. Her husband, Kenneth Roberts, handed me a two inch thick folder crammed with newspaper clippings about her. Believe me, I read every single one. I spent hours in the archives of several organizations, poring over long forgotten pages in scrapbooks. I used my cell phone camera to photograph articles so I could have them at my disposal during the writing process. Like this one, from the shelter home, chapter eight in the book:


That picture shows the shelter for abused women (that Dr. Carswell was instrumental in creating) before the security fence was installed. The reason for the fence is a compelling story I included in the chapter. I didn't write much about the white house to the right of the shelter. It was used as a halfway house for women who no longer needed the intensive care offered in the shelter, but had no place to live. It gave them a chance to restore their lives before they moved on. That building was cleared away in a controlled burn when a small apartment complex was added on the grounds.

As I read the articles I found so many of Jane's quotes the reporters included in their writing about her that showed her personality or her thinking. I knew I wanted to incorporate them somehow into the book, to make them stand out from the text. I came up with a way. For instance, in the chapter on the shelter home, here's a quote from the Charlotte Observer, December 9, 1984:
"He really hit her hard, right in front of me. But she wouldn't press charges. She said she had to go home and live with him, that she didn't have any place else to go." 
The quote is the first thing the reader sees in the chapter, right under the title, and right before the photograph. Here's the picture I selected to start the shelter chapter:
Jane took this photo I have labeled "butterfly on iron weed" for future reference. To me, butterflies represent new life, just as what was offered the women who came through the shelter.

The quote from Jane that I fit into the beginning of another chapter, chapter six, the one about her practice of medicine, sums up her philosophy of how she conducted her medical practice:
"Family medicine keeps one humble. Often you as a physician can do very little to help the patients, but they still give you their trust and share their joys and sorrows with you." from Family Practice Hi-Lights, Medical College of Virginia Student Family Practice Association, Winter, 1984.
I can't wait for you to see the quote at the beginning of chapter fifteen, the chapter I titled "Joy." It is from a poem Jane wrote about her happiness at being married to the love of her life.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Carswell Book, Photographs

One of the early decisions I made in structuring this Dr. Jane Carswell book was to do it in full color. I tried to stay in black and white to keep the consumer cost down, but when I switched Jane's unbelievably beautiful nature photographs from vivid to drab, I knew I would regret it. I could see myself apologizing to people as I handed them the book, "I'm sorry, you should see it in color, but..."



See the difference? While there is a certain beauty in black and white, to be sure, in this specific book, color is everything.



Since I made that choice, then I had to use every nook and cranny on the interior to fill it with splashes of color. The printing cost is the same regardless of how many color photographs are included. It's page count that increases costs. But then the challenge became on how I could incorporate a selection from her thousands of pictures into the narrative that is her story. There are just so many ways a writer can talk about a flower or a hillside in a story about a humanitarian.

Then I had a light bulb moment. In the art of the bookmaking, the first letter or word of each chapter is usually highlighted in some way. Different font. Increased size. Fancy flairs. Anything to set a reader's mind into the newness of a fresh chapter.

What if, instead of that, I used a postage stamp sized photograph that started each chapter with beauty!!! Those daisies start chapter two. This mountain laurel starts chapter fifteen. I chose that flower because it was what she used with roses for decoration at the wedding, and that was the wedding chapter.


The majority of the sixteen chapter opening photographs are flowers, except for chapter ten. For that one I chose a photograph Jane took of a bird at Fontana Dam. When you read the book, you'll understand why.


Because of choosing color, I tripled my per book wholesale cost and will need to charge twenty dollars for each book when I'm selling out and about. The listed price on Amazon will be $22.50. 
But still, it will be so worth the difference to the reader.

I can't wait for you to see the rest of the pictures I selected. Your eyes are in for a treat.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Thursday, May 10, 2018

MY NEW BOOK

In case you haven't noticed, I've been off the blog radar for a few long months working to finish my newest project. And TA-DA, it's so close to being finished, I can now announce a launch date: May 24!! In the next days I'll give details as to time and place, but for now, let me start introducing my book.

About a year ago a man in our community, Kenneth Roberts, the retired superintendent of schools and my former boss, came to me and asked if I would help him write a book about his wife, Dr. Jane Carswell, who died in 2015. My first question to him - "Would she have been okay with this?"

He replied, "Probably not, but it needs to be done."

As I've worked on her biography this past year, I became more and more aware that he was so correct on both counts. She was a very private person who preferred to work in the background and give the credit to others. Yet this is a story that needed to be told. Her life was an inspiration.

We had a working title from day one:

Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend

In the past my books have been in the memoir genre, but this time I've crossed over a slight bit to do a biography, although the genre line between memoir and biography is not all that distinct. I used several memoir techniques in constructing this book...interviewing people who knew my subject...researching what they told me to add more or to fact check...making phone calls...sending emails...knocking on doors.

That's all behind me. I'm in the final proof stage and assuming all is as it should be, pushing the publish button is imminent. Almost.

I'll start with the back cover, created by my go-to book cover designer, Books That Matter.

The rose is significant. First off, it is a photograph taken by Dr. Carswell herself, one of thousands we had to choose from. Second, Jane Carswell grew roses. She didn't just grow them, she nurtured them, doctored them, and basked in their beauty. This rose earned its place on the back cover.

I did not know her before I wrote this book, except that she was the doctor who covered for my own physician whenever he was absent. Invariably my children took sick on his day off, and we ended up in her office. But about the Jane Carswell as humanitarian or friend, I knew nothing.

As I became acquainted with her, I grew more and more protective of her story. I had to tell it right. I couldn't misrepresent anything about her, nor could I insert my own awe into the narrative. There was plenty enough without my side comments.

I can't wait to introduce her to you.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen







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