Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ANNOUNCING: Beyond Paradise

Back from Thanksgiving vacation and now I'm ready to climb another mountain.

Yes, I've put another book on-line. Beyond Paradise was my first venture into publishing. I remember when I got the call from my editor Rosemary Brosnan at Morrow Junior Books. It was weird. I've now learned that no one gets accepted out of the slush pile (according to my friend Esther Hershenhorn of SCBWI fame). Maybe the fact that this was 11 years ago accounts for the phenomena.


I signed a contract, I celebrated, I waited. Pretty much hot dogs have a longer shelf life.

Part of the problem was that Morrow got bought out by Harper (is it Harper Collins, Harper & Bros, or simply Rupert Murdoch?). Anyway, my baby, the work of my hands, the thing I had gone over and over again with my editor--let alone revised numerous times on my own--got remaindered. Remaindered without the chance for me to buy back at a reduced rate author copies (THOUGH IT WAS IN THE CONTRACT).

So today I upload, celebrate, and make pennies on the dollar--BUT STILL I'm not complaining. I only wish I had more books to put on-line.

Beyond Paradise is about a young girl, Louise Keller, who travels with her missionary family to the Philippines on the eve of Pearl Harbor. At first the country seems like paradise, but soon Louise and her family are captured by the Japanese and forced to live in internment camps. 
"How would you like to go to paradise?" asks Louise Keller's father, a Baptist minister who has accepted a position as a missionary on the small island of Panay. Fourteen-year-old Louise, a writer of poetry who chafes at small-town life, is eager for the change. But the new experiences Louise has dreamed of soon turn nightmarish: when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, the war, which had seemed so far away, rapidly threatens their island existence.

This unusual first novel is based on true accounts of the imprisonment of American citizens in Japanese detention camps in the Philippines during World War II.
Here is a small Thanksgiving excerpt from the book:

Our Thanksgiving meal was a banquet for poor, hungry eyes and also a feast for our empty stomachs. When we entered the small cookhouse, we discovered a turkey on a platter. Our “turkey” was a large squash called a camote, something like a sweet potato. This camote was naturally shaped like the torso of a turkey. The neck was the stem. Long bananas fastened on with copper wire stuck out like legs, and the turkey’s wings were made of slices of camote. Surrounding the “turkey” on a platter were red beans and rice, which looked almost like dressing.
The camote turkey was just a centerpiece. There was real meat with vegetables and fruits, donated by friends outside the camp. For a week the women cooked over an open fire in the afternoons, preparing one thousand pieces of chocolate-coconut fudge so that each of the 146 internees could take several pieces back to their rooms.
Mother and I ate on the verandah with Ann, Frank, and the girls. It was the closest I’d felt to home in a long time.

Friday, November 18, 2011


could you please go to the Amazon page where Orphan girl (Kindle edition)
and click on the tags.

What I mean is:
scroll to the bottom to Tags Customers Associate with This Product

agree with these tags

Heard this type pf action HELPS my book. Of course this is all voodoo. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm trademarking the phrase FLASH MEMOIR

I just had a short--what I'm calling Flash Memoir--taken by this:
Telling Our Stories Press, forthcoming short memoir anthology

I thought some of you might want to contribute too

here is the link and more info:

Telling Our Stories Press
Short Memoir Submission Guidelines~
Telling Our Stories Press seeks raw, close to the bone writing about meaningful personal experiences. We are seeking memoir that enlightens, entertains and connects with the reader at a basic human level – which usually naturally occurs when one examines ones life with depth, sincerity, and a desire for knowledge and understanding.

However, as with any memoir, there MUST be some uncovering of whatever wisdom was gained, (however slight) from a backward glance at an era in your life, experiences you’ve undergone, persons in your life, persons you’ve become, lessons learned, etc. We are especially partial to narratives created by the interior, personal writings derived  from creative journal writing. Your memoir should comprise meaningful moments, and readers should get a sense of why it was important to you to tell your story.

We are seeking literary personal narratives with well crafted writing employing literary techniques such as explicit or implied storyline, conflict, symbolism, theme, interiority, rich imagery and description. Entries will be judged on originality and the use of various structural forms, language and cohesive storytelling.

BUT, here at Telling Our Stories Press, we are also seeking memoir of different
SHAPES & SIZES.  We are seeking to push structure to create memoir art.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WOW! So Much Hard Work

We've all heard that catch-phrase: Learning Curve. I just climbed a Learning Mountain. I won't go into details, but to get my 2 books Orphan Girl and Beyond Paradise turned into e-books has been one long haul.


For this e-book edition I’d like to thank author Megg Jensen for her tremendous help. Megg offered advice and tips on e-book publishing. Check out her books at Dark Side Publishing and at www.meggjensen.blogspot.comIn addition Mary Jo Guglielmo was the one who told me to get my butt in gear and 1. get a blog and 2. get in on this e-book thing. I know this is the current of publishing today, but I tend to resist and go against the flow. Definitely having a blog has helped to generate interest in my short stories, books, and memoir seminars.

Lastly, I am grateful to the final contributor to the Marie James’ story. The last piece of the family puzzle fell into place when I got an e-mail from Marie’s great-granddaughter Amanda McKay. We talked for an hour about how the memoir has impacted her life and the life of her family. I asked her to share what the book has meant to her for this e-book edition of Orphan Girl. While not exactly a reflection or a memory of Marie (as they never got a chance to meet), Amanda shares Marie’s knack for telling a story. Her beautiful piece is a fit ending.

When Orphan Girl first appeared in print form in 1998 who would have thought that the memoir of a bag lady would have had so much reach and impacted so many lives. Today the book is used as part of a literary project in Buffalo, New York and has been adopted for classroom use at various universities around the United States. Many readers have been inspired to write to say how much the book moved them or that they were planning to volunteer at a homeless shelter as a result of reading Marie’s story.

More than anything, so many people have said that they knew a bag lady or someone who is homeless. They passed them on the streets every day and in the back of their mind suspected there was a story there, something that caused this person to eat out of Dumpsters or build a house under the viaducts made out of cardboard. But out of fear or nervousness, they didn’t know how to approach the bag lady or gentleman with the frayed coat sitting on the park bench and begin a conversation. I was lucky, in that Marie sought me out. She came to me with her compelling story and shared her life with me.

Some readers have mentioned that a loved one, a family member perhaps, because of mental illness or circumstances, has lived on the streets. Orphan Girl has given them insight into the plight of these invisible individuals, survivors.

Never was I more surprised than to open my inbox one day to find a message from a stranger. *You don’t know me, but I am the great-granddaughter of Marie James.* Full circle, I thought to myself. I asked the writer of that email if I could call her. We chatted for over an hour and while talking I knew that Amanda needed to share her story.

Though the two had never met, Amanda and Marie have a lot in common: a fierceness to overcome their surroundings, to do better. While Marie was never able to enter the mainstream of “normal” (I think she loved being an outsider), she contributed richly to the lives of others through her music, playing the piano at an area feeding program, and by telling her life story. Amanda in turn was also generous and honest in talking about her family.

This e-book edition represents a complete picture. Amanda McKay’s piece is the period to a tragic life—leaving us with a seed of hope.

Monday, November 14, 2011

That Heavy Funny Feeling in the Pit of One's Stomach

I just booked overseas airline tickets.

Why does it always feel like you've walked over the edge of a cliff when you click SEND?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

Didn't want to write Happy Veteran's Day--because it doesn't seem to be the case.

NPR this morning was reporting "Nearly 1 in 8 veterans who left the service in the past decade is unemployed." Specifically "Some 240,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work."

And then this from a published study on homelessness: "Homeless veterans are more likely to die on the streets than non-veterans, a new study revealed."

Yesterday at Cornerstone Community Outreach, the shelter I volunteer at and lead discussion and creative writing groups, there was a HUGE Veteran's Day party. CCO Director Sandy Ramsey said she met an older gentleman at a bus stop and from talking discovered he was a Tuskegee Airmen. I'd seen the movie--though someone told me Denzel was not in that film--must've been thinking about Glory. Anyway, Sandy invited him and any other airmen in the area to the Veteran's Day party at the shelter. She also got a band to play. And of course, there was good food. Ribs and bread pudding, etc. A feast to commemorate the day.

Some VERY old guys walked into the shelter covered with medals. The Tuskegee Airmen was a group of African American pilots who formed a squadron at the beginning of WWII. They ended up fighting several battles at once. From Wiki "The American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subject to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction." They were called the Tuskegee Airmen because they trained at the historically black Tuskegee Institute. Anyway, the program got an unexpected boost when then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt inspected the unit and even flew with them. She pronounced, "Well, you can fly all right."

The shelter was packed. It was a great celebration, but also a wake-up call. So many of those there at the party were struggling. They'd lost jobs, housing, some had lost family support, some were physically and mentally damaged.

Let's pray these wars will end--and that more of our veterans find housing and employment.

More links:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Italian Meet Up

There was a time my husband and I thought we could learn Italian.

We’d accidentally gotten to go to Europe (see The European Schedule and fell in love with Italy. We had friends living there at the time and somehow we imagined that someday we might go there to live. We liked to pretend that we could escape the Bush years and the embarrassment of the Iraq War.

So we signed up for an Italian language Meet Up. Do you know about meet-ups? They are a self-organizing on-line social networking thing that goes like this: If you are interested in geo-caching you can sign up for a Geo-Caching Meet Up, if you are interested in exploring abandoned buildings you could sign up for an Urban Explorer’s Meet Up. There were meet ups for just about any interest. A friend of mine signed up for 6 of them and after going to 2 decided that was enough. There are Knitting Meet Ups, Doll Collector Meet Ups. There’s probably one for bloggers.

After signing up we got an e-mail reminder that the group was meeting at an area bar. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I thought with enough conversation and prompting I could master Italian. For Christmas my husband had given me flashcards. I probably had memorized a hundred words. What could I possibly talk about at the meet-up besides Hi, my name is—

We walked in and ordered vino and took a seat in the back on cozy couches. We sat across from a couple conversing in rapid-fire Italian. One of them turned to us and spoke in what sounded like Italian. My mind suddenly emptied out. I did the only thing I could. In baby Italian I said, Hi, my name is—

But that was as far as I got. Even though one of the women slowed waaay down, I still didn’t know what she was saying. I just smiled like a simpleton. After awhile the two women continued talked amongst themselves. As more people arrived there was a flurry of ciaos! and come va!

My husband turned to me and said, We’ve got to get out of here. I agreed, but how without making it obvious.

Another guy came up and asked how things were going. We were relieved that he spoke to us in English—even though the whole point was to learn Italian. We learned that he was a native Italian and was in the States to study. He’d come to the meet up to improve his English. Listen, I wanted to tell him, if my Italian was as good as your English, I’d be flying high. But to even say that sentence in Italian would have taken me an hour, looking up each word in my Italian dictionary.

We had several Italian primers. Most comprised of ready-made conversations that had nothing to do with real life. One contained a scene between a potential tourist and an equestrian. Perhaps for the traveler planning to buy a horse and gallop around the Boot. In Italian my husband practiced asking me, Is this horse tame? Non, I managed to answer.

We also had a beginner Italian book picture book for kiddies. Ciao Teddy. In the picture book Teddy (a cute little teddy bear, un orso) buys ice cream (gelato), goes to a circus (circo), plays with a ball (una palla) and a train (un treno). Teddy has a madre and a padre and a sorella. In one of the scenes he goes to the circus and buys a ticket, a bigletto! At the circus are leoni, coccodrilli, giraffe, zebra, and grande elefante.

We knew them all because, of all things, the little tots who come to visit us always pull the Ciao Teddy book off the shelf. It doesn’t matter to them if we read it to them in English or Italian. I’d come up with a theory that the kids felt safe and secure with the accessible pictures, the simple language: Teddy loves his mother and father, his mother and father love him. This message translates into any language.

So when the Italian tried to ply my husband with questions in Italian I watched him go from engaged to distracted. I was about to interrupt to say we needed to get going when my husband suddenly brought up the circus. Si, si, our new friend nodded. Then Mike began to rattle off the names of different animals.

One of the women came over and sat on the edge of the couch near Mike. She named a few animals, I recognized from Ciao Teddy. She stopped, Shit what’s the word for monkeys?

Scimmie, Mike answered.

The woman was so impressed I thought she was going to lean over and kiss him.

After deciding to leave—we ended up staying for another hour.

So if we’re ever in Italy and need to go to the circus—we’re totally ready.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Saturday was my birthday and it seems it was the BEST ever!

All together I think I spent about $12. I had free tickets to the Humanities Festival downtown on Sat. So we went there. I biked! And got to enjoy the scenic waterfront on the bike path. Afterwards I rode over to Lutz Cafe where the theme is Old European-style pastries. I don't mean old like stale, more like old world. Where I spent a groupon with my husband and had a nice time chatting and eating this:
It's a lemon log, the ends are dipped in hard chocolate and there is lemon-flavored butter cream in the center. More than a glorified Twinkie to be sure.

Then yesterday me and my friend Stefi took the #80 Irving Park bus to the end of the line and got off at Cumberland to begin biking north on the Des Plaines River trail. Here are some pics from our ride:

It was like riding through a leafy autumn wonderland. The Cook county half of the trail is a bit more undeveloped. We were virtually riding through forests on paths COVERED with red, gold, and dead leaves. The Lake County half is more developed and marked, with not so many leaves--so we could go faster since the trail wasn't obscured by leaf debris. We had a plan to ride with the wind at our backs. The plan was also to end the ride at the Lake Bluff metra station after 50 miles. BUT I read the schedule wrong and the next train wasn't due for another 2 hours! I had to get home to a birthday party for ME. So we rode another 15 or so miles to Wilmette where we picked up CTA.

Today I am beat.

Also this month is the ONE YEAR anniversary of this here blog. so wish us both good tidings, God's speed, etc. Actually, you can just say it all to me, since the blog is me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Save Chicago Public Libraries

Dear Mayor Rahm Emmanuel
Alderman James Cappleman
Ms. Laura Jenkins, Librarian Uptown Branch

I am writing in regard to the proposed budget cuts to the Chicago Public Library. Chicago now is considered a national model in the use of libraries as magnets for development. Do you actually want to forfeit Chicago’s standing in this area?

In 1994 the former Mayor Richard M. Daley tapped Mary Dempsey to be library commissioner for the Chicago Public Library. Ms. Dempsey, not only oversaw the opening of the Harold Washington Library, but also added 40 new libraries. In addition she improved the 79-branch network — many of whose facilities had been located in small, leased storefronts — but anchored the revitalization of entire neighborhoods. When the private sector saw the city investing in handsome, freestanding library buildings, new businesses, restaurants and mixed-income housing followed. Chicago NEEDS libraries if it wants to attract new businesses.

Also, who did Mayor Daley turn to in a time of personal and professional crisis when faced with a minority-contracting scandal in the purchasing department—a librarian. Ms. Dempsey streamlined the purchasing process, eliminating a backlog of contracts and revamping the affirmative-action program in an effort to identify white-owned businesses that were using women and minorities as fronts. Chicago NEEDS librarians if it wants to help solve its budgeting problems—not eliminating librarians.

The Chicago Public Library serves 12 million visitors per year. No other cultural, educational, entertainment or athletic organization in Chicago can make that claim. In addition, the libraries are there for children after school to work on homework or to catch latch-key kids while parents work. Without libraries these kids will be out on the streets. With Chicago’s widening gang problem is this what we want—more children available to the gangs? The libraries also act as warming/cooling facilities for the city’s elderly and other at-risk populations. Where will community advisories send people who need these necessary services—to the city’s hospitals, to City Hall, to Starbucks and Best Buy? Chicago NEEDS libraries to keep or even expand their hours.

If Chicago really is the city that works—then work with the Chicago Public Library to keep LIBRARIANS, HOURS OF SERVICE, AND A REASONABLE BUDGET FOR NEW BOOK PURCHASES. It would only be wrong to cut any of the above and expect to keep Chicago as a city of prestige.

Jane Hertenstein
A loyal CPL patron

Never Forget

I know, I know. It’s been like 2 weeks, but I had to relearn how to use the Internet after being away from it for so long. In fact, I couldn’t remember how to turn on a computer after getting home from vacation.

BUT here is an interesting item 

Perfect for Halloween and All Saint’s Day. Why not order or download the Gothic Blue Book. My kid has a story in it called “Death and All His Friends.”

Also here is a link to my latest short story, recently published by Foliate Oak Literary Magazine

I welcome all comments or complaints about this controversial story. In fact I was expecting a firestorm or angry letters after it came out and have been gravely disappointed. Not one bit of hate mail.

You see I’m trying to build on my reputation as a rebel-rouser.