Friday, October 30, 2015

Evolution of Pop-up books

Howling winter winds pounding the snow into hard packed drifts. Howling summer winds snatching the precious top soil from the fields. Isolated. Lonely. No electricity. No radio. No television. What was a child to do?

Read. No matter that there were less than half a dozen books in the house. They could always be read and reread.

The fuzzy wuzzy Santa lost much of his fuzz from all the touches. The pop-up book barely escaped tears from all the pulling to see what treasures were in those pictures.

And what did that child do when she was an adult? Bought adult versions of pop-up books of course—the most special being Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series, with their letters to be pulled out, unfolded, read, and tucked back into their envelopes.

And what did that child do when she had children of her own? Bought them books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That mother marveled with her children at the magic of the books with their pullout bits, their wheels to turn, their pages that magically grew as they were opened.

And what did that child do when she had a granddaughter? Bought her books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That grandmother marveled with her munchkin at the magic of the intricate designs.

We’ve come a long way, baby. A long way.


Santa Claus and the Little Lost Kitten by Louise W. Meyers 1952
Santa's Christmas Party by Helen Sterling 1951
Mother Goose - Hallmark (no date)
School Bugs by David A. Carter 2000

Saturday, October 24, 2015

When the Sun was Mine

When the Sun was Mine

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Review comments
“Expertly written, suspenseful, the mystery grips you from the first page.”
“… a surprising, entirely satisfying beginning.”
“… moments of true poetic beauty as a delicate, unusual friendship develops between a young girl (Brit) and an old lady(Flo).”
“I couldn’t put it down and towards the end I was sobbing.  Good thing I wasn’t wearing any make-up.”
“Alzheimer’s is such a fearsome disease, but Jones’ story doesn’t live there.”
“… makes its mark in terms of social commentary on this disease.”
“…when you have people willing to care, even those newly in your life, the most dreadful of situations can still touch your heart and leave you as the reader with possibility rather than loss.”
Poor little Miss Wright. Second time she comes into my room and once again she gets the shock of her life. Appreciated her concern for me, but really what could she do? I gave her a little wave as she eyed the two nurses bearing down on me and then slipped out the door behind Matthews.
All I wanted now was a long hot shower and something to eat. I’d missed breakfast of course and there likely wasn’t much left from lunch, but maybe I could scrounge something. I ignored the two nurses who had come in. One took my arm to help me to the bathroom. I shook her off and slammed the door in her face. Not fair to take my anger out on them. They hadn’t strapped me down, but then they hadn’t come to check on me all morning either.
By the time I finished my shower and put on my jeans, M*A*S*H* T-shirt, and thongs, oops, I mean flip-flops, Curly and Mo had remade my bed. The room still stank. I opened the window to let in some air. The incinerator wasn’t spewing forth at the moment so maybe my room would smell decent when I got back. I squirted some Chanel #5 on my neck and wrists and then a couple of sprays around the room. Terrible waste really, but I thought it might help.
I stepped out into the hallway and took a deep breath. Big mistake. The air didn’t smell a hell of a lot better than in my room. The omnipresent hospital odor mixed with the unique scent of old people. Not fair that everything went to pot as we aged. Wrinkles, creaky bones, flaccid muscles, droopy skin, and the sour fragrance of decay.
Just the other day, some little kid was in the visitor lounge with Esther. “Grandma, you smell funny,” he said, when his mother urged him to hug the old lady. Kid refused and kicked up a fuss. Couldn’t really blame him. At least his mother had the smarts to back off.
Yes, we were allowed out of our rooms during the day, the idea being that we could entertain each other and not burden the staff. Heaven forbid they should have to exert themselves for us. I went to the dining room and found a couple of slices of bread to pop in the toaster, and a hard-boiled egg. I poured a glass of watery orange drink made from powder like that horrible Tang stuff they sent us when we were overseas years ago, and smeared my toast with something that was supposed be butter. It tasted okay if you held your nose. Lord knows, I’d eaten a lot worse in my lifetime. Millet laced with grains of sand. I laughed when I remembered seeing the goats foraging in the mortar and pestle that held our food. I brushed toast crumbs off my hands and had to admit I felt better after eating.
I wandered over to the rec room and a sorry excuse it was. A few rickety tables and battered folding metal chairs, which made me think of France with all those sidewalk cafes, the parks, the little wrought iron tables, Michel. Now there was a lover extraordinaire, lived up to the romantic Frenchman reputation; kind and thoughtful and gentle, but a lion in bed. I closed my eyes and lived it again. Ah, those were the days.
Then I made the mistake of opening my eyes. Worn linoleum floors. One tiny window. I didn’t bother looking out. I already knew it was the same dismal view as from my room. Decrepit war-time houses across the street, scrubby grass that passed for lawns, the odd scrawny tree, no flowers to speak of, although one house had a couple of hanging pots that looked pretty, the riot of color a sight for sore eyes. Battered bikes lay scattered in the yards, abandoned haphazardly when the kids got home from school. Wrecks of cars parked in front of some of the houses. Was a wonder any of them still worked, but they did. I’d watched the people from my window when I couldn’t sleep: kids, parents, going about their business, work, school, with a few drug deals thrown in for good measure. Dreary little houses, dreary little lives. Bet all they did was watch the boob tube, guzzle beer, and smoke pot. Bah. Humbug.
We never got to go outside. Never. I’m sure prisoners were better treated. Didn’t they always have an exercise yard or was that just the movie image? A trip to a park or the mall would be nice, or the movies. Not that Hollywood was producing much good stuff these days, but still … just to get out.
Everything about Happy Hearts so conducive to enjoying oneself. I counted five people in the rec room sitting, staring at the floor. A sixth was watching television on mute alternately nodding and shaking her head at the screen.
Old Artie, and I mean old, ninety-nine and still toddling along, spent most of each day sitting at the chessboard. Never had any visitors or anyone to play with. I took pity on him, sat down, and offered to play a match. He proved to be a more challenging opponent than I expected, but I won. Took my mind off the Internet dilemma for a bit. I’d have to lie low for a couple of days, but then what?
I roamed the halls looking for Brittany and found her with a large screwdriver in her hand.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“I couldn’t open your window this morning. It’s stuck.”
Stuck? I burst out laughing. This younger generation never ceased to amaze with their ignorance. The chit had obviously never seen wooden windows before and didn’t know she had to turn the lock thingy at the top of the frame before she could slide the window up.
The girl bristled. “What’s so damn funny?”
“Whoa, did you just use a bad word?”
She blushed. Must have grown up in a staid household, I thought. Much like mine. The words in my head stopped me cold. I squeezed my eyes tight and fought to remember, but nothing came to me. I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes. To have a glimpse, just one little glimpse of my mother. That’s all I asked. Did I have pictures of her? If so, where were they? Would I recognize her or would someone have to point her out to me? And my dad? What was he like?
That’s the worst thing about this Alzheimer’s business. Thoughts pop in and out of your head until you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. They taunt you with snippets of your life before, but there’s never enough to grasp a whole memory or maybe there is on some days and you just don’t remember.
“Is your window always locked?” Brittany asked.
Her voice jolted me back to the present. “No, why?”
“Not even at night?”
“I like to leave it open all the time for fresh air, if the incinerator’s not rumbling that is.”
“Okay then.”
I watched her amble down the hallway toward the caretaker’s office swinging the screwdriver and humming, “a merry tune to toot, he knows a song will move the job along.” Hated that movie. Maudlin nonsense.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Closed Doors

Before I self-published, I made the mistake of sending query letters to literary agents. I received rejections, some on little scraps of paper, or no response at all. I must have been doing something wrong.

I attended conferences and workshops designed, not only to help me be a better writer, but to help me snag an agent. Write your query letters this way, the presenter (a New York agent) said. Do this and this and this.

Other workshops had a person read the first page of our work while a panel of four agents listened. As soon as one hand went up—sometimes as quickly as after the first sentence was read—the reader stopped and the agents each explained why they would reject the manuscript.

Armed with this information, I tried yet again. I stopped when I learned that at most the agent spent 15 seconds looking at my query letter. I stopped when a keynote speaker at the Willamette conference said, “I’ve pitched my client’s book to 36 publishers. One accepted demanding rewrites. The book will be out next month. It’s taken us a year. Avoid the grief. Publish your book yourself.” I stopped when another agent said, “I’m not representing authors traditionally. I am helping them to self-publish and market.”

If the doors to literary agents are closed, the doors to Hollywood are glued shut. It’s virtually impossible to even find agents’ addresses to send query letters to. And, if you do find one? From Hollywood you don’t get rejections, you get your letters sent back unopened.

I marvel at the attitude that allows only for insider contact. What grand opportunities are the agents and producers missing? Perhaps instead of sequels upon sequels, and copycats upon copycats, Hollywood could be offering fresh new movies and television series if they cracked open those doors.

I’m not hopeful that anything will change soon—or ever. But I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop trying to make contacts. As my mother always said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What does Flo know?


When the Sun Was Mine

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Flo:      I was an inmate in this hellhole they charmingly called a nursing home. Then Brit climbed in my window. She was just a kid. How could she possibly help me?

Brit:      I should have been in college, not working in this dump. But then I never would have met Flo. She had Alzheimer’s. They said she never talked, but she talked to me.

Brought together by circumstance, an old lady and a young girl develop an unlikely friendship. Each has a dream they long to fulfill, but first Brit is determined to solve the mystery of Flo.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Authors helping authors

“Did you hear?” our school librarian asks? “Glen Huser has a new book out.”

I had heard. I also knew he was coming back to the city for a launch at my favorite bookstore.

“Are you going?” She waved the ad for his reading in front of me. “You’re a friend of his, aren’t you?”

I am and I am. “For sure I’m going.” Not only is Glen a friend of mine, he taught with my mom for many years. She’d be with me at the launch if she were still alive.

The bookstore is crammed with people the day of Glen’s appearance. Many are teachers. It’s like old home week, a chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while, a chance to reminisce about Mom, a chance to chat with Glen.
Um, not much chance of that, I think as I see the crowd swarm around him with cash and credit cards clutched in their fists. 

I don’t like YA books and that’s what Glen writes. As everyone else saunters around with several copies of the book clutched in their arms, I’m guilted into buying one.

After the reading I join those waiting for his autograph. The long line behind me precludes a lengthy chat, but we do manage to exchange a few words.

Glen’s book sits on my shelf for several weeks until guilt again forces me to take it down and read. After all, it’s Glen’s book. The least I can do is give it a try.

“Aren’t you coming to bed?” my husband asks. “It’s after midnight.”

“Yeah, in a minute.” I finish the book that night. I reread it the next day.

I tell everyone I know to buy it. Since then, I’ve read it several more times. My delight in the story and my admiration of Glen’s writing skills grow with each reading. Someday my granddaughter will inherit it. She’ll love it too.

But what my husband, my librarian, and the people at the book signing don’t know is that Glen played an instrumental role in my writing. I happened to mention to him one day that I had been playing with a story in my head for about a year and thought maybe I should try writing it. He listened politely as was his usual manner and said, “Oh well then, you’ve done the hard work of pre-writing. What are you waiting for?”

Thank you, Glen!