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.

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