It's a snowy Saturday in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year's. I think of this week as an extended snow day.
Historically, it's a hard time to get hold of people for feature stories. Government entities take a break, and lots of people are off work due to end-of-year vacation time or their workplaces are closed.
It's kind of nice; a break in the action before Tuesday arrives and we're thrust, ready or not, into a new working year.
I like today. It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas! It's cold and snowy outside and other than taking the dog out, there is no reason to leave the house. There's no reason, even, to put on real clothes, but I may. Or I may not.
What I will do when I finish this final 2017 post is to clock some time for my newspaper job. Several January projects involve getting a head start, and permission to work on the clock from home for a few hours will help me greet Tuesday better prepared to tackle January.
I don't do politics on social media. Sometimes I have to hog-tie my fingers, but I don't go there. I don't argue or preach or add to the divisiveness I see and feel around me. I have many friends and family, not to mention readers, acquaintances and colleagues whom I love, admire, respect and maybe even on occasion simply tolerate, who disagree mightily on such topics.
In the online political realm, I am Switzerland.
What I will share is my Christian faith in the Living Trinity, the three-in-one of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the only hope for humanity.
When I review 2017, I think of moments. There is my career high of covering the presidential inauguration and women's march from the aspect of what it was like to be there. It was an intense few days full of experiences, then back to the hotel to write and transmit everything to quite a few Hoosier newspapers. I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life.
I am grateful for yet another year of this ride as a regional author. To every book club, social or literary club, church banquet and program organizer, library staffer and author fair organizer who sought me out in some way, I am in debt. Going into each year, I think perhaps the ride is about over. So far, the surprise is that it hasn't been. So if you need a program or presentation or speaker, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many friends and author friends to thank for your help. I think of how Janis Thornton showed up at the Fishers Library last March simply to support me in my program on self-publishing, and how she would like to work with me further in developing a workshop-styled program on the topic. That same night, son Sam and DIL Allison surprised me by arriving at the end of the program to help me carry everything to the car and deliver a refreshing hot tea!
I think of Sandy Moore and our mutual support society with marketing ideas and cluing each other in on opportunities. There is Annette Goggin who I only got to know through the author ride, but who I think of as a friend and admire greatly. Plus, I am grateful for her asking me to her old-fashioned hymn sing! I loved it! (Let's do it again?)
I thank those -- and I'm thinking of writer friend Cheryl Bennett -- who posted reviews of my second book on Goodreads and Amazon. And I am grateful for the number of people I don't know whose reviews pop up.
Oh, the list above goes on and on to include, but not limited to Mary Wilkinson, my bestie Gay Kirkton, her parents, my boss Katie Clontz, and I know I am in trouble because I'm leaving out some people but I'm trying to hurry this along!
Other precious moments include the trip Gay and I took to Galena, Illinois, and to Miss Effie's flower farm near Donahue, Iowa, and the new friend I have now in Cathy, the entrepreneur and Gay's college friend who founded the flower farm and crafts-filled Summer Kitchen there.
I think of walking with John and Debby Williams and loved ones in their fight against Cystic Fibrosis.
I am surrounded by inspiring, creative, resourceful, fierce, sweet, empowered, wonderful women!
Brian and I took a pretty-much perfect trip to D.C. in September and by writing ahead for tickets and clearance, got insider looks inside The White House, Congress, Capitol, Pentagon and FBI Building. The Newseum was outstanding, as was hearing a lecture in the Supreme Court courtroom.
I'm so grateful to Kids at Heart Publisher Shelley Davis for accepting my books into her bookshop at the Warm Glow Candle Co. complex.
I'm grateful to my husband for his love and support. Grateful to spend time with extended family -- wonderful trips visiting Tim and Jeannie in Liberty, Brian's annual trip to see his brother and SIL Steve and Linda in Florida, hosting a master's degree grad party for our DIL Allison, attending a great-niece's wedding and a great-great niece's birthday party. I think of seeing our friend Coach Rick's football team, Trine University, win a playoff game in its undefeated-season year.
I think of the Midlife Mom sisters of Ovid Community Church, and the Bible Study Fellowship folks who help guide as the Holy Scriptures come alive to me each time I'm in them. I. think of my sons Sam and Ben and wonderful daughter-in-law Allison. Oh, and I'm grateful that Brian's McClellan clan continues to get together every Fourth of July weekend and for cousin Beth for starting a periodic cousins get-together.
I think of everyone who said yes when I asked if I could write about some aspect of their lives. I think of Steve Dicken, the English teacher I wish I had had in school, and of whom I am proud to have as a writing colleague now. I think of our dear friend Barb Clark. I think of my encourager and confidante Debbie McCray.
I have probably left out so much about this year that brought joy and sweetness. Life is short. We have to embrace every opportunity, love one another, care about one another. And if you are a writer, you probably have to write about it all.
I plan to keep doing just that. So bring it on! 2018, what do you have for me? Thank you God, for another year on this planet!
Happy New Year to you, whomever and wherever you are reading this.
So today I feel overwhelmed by gratitude. That’s a good place to be. It's been such a fast-paced week, I'm only now getting this posted.
After last Saturday in Indy at the newspaper conference, Sunday it was off to Centerville where I visited with shoppers, colleagues and friends in the new Artisans and Java building at the Kids at Heart Publishing mini-bookstore.
Monday night was a speaking engagement at Fishers United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s Christmas gathering. I am grateful to Linda Shimer who served this year as co-president of the UMW and is also active in the church’s book club. I appreciate her support and encouragement so much.
She also wows me! In addition to her leadership role, she went and picked up and returned home a friend who couldn't get there on her own. In fact, she left so quickly following the program that I was unable to get a photo with her. Not only that but I found out that Linda and her husband MOVED last week!
Even though my connection to the church’s book club had nothing to do with my husband’s 26 years working in Fishers schools, ironically, Linda told me that several were coming who knew him. It was such a delight to see these wonderful former co-workers of Brian’s – and look up to find their smiling faces near the front of the sanctuary as I spoke.
I took their photos and texted them to Brian. He was pretty pumped about their attendance and when I got home, he took a trip down Fishers Memory Lane, reflecting on all the wonderful people he worked with during those years.
Last summer, a surprise invite came from town library director Carrie Watson to give the opening program to children in the summer reading program. I spoke on the topic, “What’s Your Clue?” about looking for our gifts and talents – even as young kids, and then later in the afternoon, I gave a second talk to the adults in a program on our bucket lists.
Carrie told me she would invite me back during the annual town Christmas walk and library open house. She even gave me the date but I didn’t put it on my calendar. I thought I should wait and see if the invite came through and guess what? It did!
I got there at 5 and enjoyed delicious hot soup samples prepared by members of the library board, and hot cocoa, served by Carrie’s adorable daughter, visited with many of the more than 100 people (probably closer to 150) who came through the library to warm up and chat with their neighbors. What a bunch of truly nice people with friendly smiles and were interested enough to stop and chat.
Carrie’s mentor, Iraida Davis, even visited the library! At age 90, it’s been a while since she directed the place but I found it touching when the two librarians posed together. Carrie says Iraida was her idol. I think she still is.
Carrie is a woman of many talents. Not only is she library director in Farmland, she is the Union Modoc library director and teaches Title 1 reading. She is a mom, a quilter, and – I kid you not – a drag racer who shows her skills all over the country.
I tried to think of how to describe Farmland, an artsy farm community with something special. The best I can do is to call out two old-time TV shows. I think Farmland is something of a blend of the two: Northern Exposure meets Mayberry.
Carrie agreed to let me write about her in a future issue of her magazine for women. Yippee!
On the ride home, the moon was huge and bright, showcasing the lovely, peaceful Hoosier farms I passed as I made my way south and west through Randolph County, then continued straight west through Henry County, and home to Madison County on U.S. 36 most of the way.
By 9:30 when I landed home, I was so tired I could hardly get from my favorite chair to draw my steaming-hot bath. But I did, then headed for bed.
It's supposed to snow this weekend; just a Christmas Chamber-of-Commerce type dusting of a couple inches.
I hope so.
December is starting with a whirlwind of activity. I am grateful for every opportunity. I just hope I can keep my schedule straight. And keep up!
Today is my last catch-up day for a while, so we hit the grocery store this morning and enjoyed the sunny, mild day. This afternoon I’m working on some surprise goodies to share with my newsroom friends tomorrow on “HSPA Day,” and make some dishes ahead for the fridge.
Tomorrow is the day Hoosier newspaper folk look forward to all year long with a morning full of Hoosier State Press Association seminars, then the awards banquet when reporters’ best work is recognized.
No matter what the paper or I do or don’t win, being there is my annual booster shot reminder that I’m part of a profession much bigger than my own band of newsies, and I reflect on the numerous first Saturdays in December I’ve shared with many in this profession. I always leave the convention hall renewed and ready to get busy – well, except that time I felt myself becoming ill as we sat through the awards session, and by the time I got home, I had full-blown flu!
I have a bit of exciting news to share, and it’s that my books are now available at Warm Glow Candle Co. in the newly opened Artisans & Java building on the property. The new concept replaces the former Watering Can gardening store. I’m privileged to share space with the Kids at Heart Publishing, LLC crew and I want to thank both the publisher, Shelley Davis, and Warm Glow Founder and Owner Jackie Carberry for this opportunity.
If you’ve never been to Warm Glow, it’s at the Centerville exit on Interstate 70 in Wayne County, Indiana, and it’s a magical place! It was the vision of business woman Jackie Carberry, who first crafted candles in her Richmond home to use as decorations in an antiques shop. However, the candles seemed to sell like hot cakes and she knew she was onto something.
I wrote about her for the cover story in her magazine for women five years ago.
From her small beginnings came the tourist attraction that is now Warm Glow. It’s so much more than candles, but also quality gifts of so many kinds.
The candles are made in Centerville – yes, made in the U.S.A. and shipped all over the country. The Centerville story at the I-70 exit is the mother ship.
What’s more, the customers are from literally everywhere! There is a new flow of traffic – heading east and west nonstop at all hours of the day and night, plus, of course, locals or regionals who make their way to this store complex.
I’ve long dreamed about having the Warm Glow sticker on my books and now I do! This weekend is the annual Christmas open house and as part of the festivities, I’ll be there Sunday from noon to 3:30 p.m. Stop and see me in the Artisans & Java building. I’m looking forward to seeing other artists’, crafters’ and authors’ merchandise too.
Monday night, I’ll be speaking during the Fishers United Methodist Women’s Christmas dessert event. I have to thank Linda Shimer for so kindly inviting me to do this several months ago. The church’s book club members read both of my books and had me in for the two discussions. I was so impressed with how thoroughly they read the books and the insightful questions they had. I look forward to Monday.
Then Tuesday after work, it's onward to Farmland where another friend I met this year, Farmland Librarian Carrie, invited me to have a table in the library where they are doing a meal and expect a couple hundred locals to pass through. The whole town is hosting an open house that evening. I’ll be there from 5-9 p.m.
After this stretch, only one more official book event remains in 2017.
Meanwhile, I plan to savor every moment and enjoy visiting with everyone I can – old and new friends alike. Whatever you’re doing this weekend, enjoy it.
There are many surprises in author world. So many that, ironically, I could write a book about the surprises associated with writing a book.
But for today, let's touch on keeping this journey going and evolving. As we know from science and from hanging out for a while on this planet, nothing (except for God) stays the same. As authors, we have to keep producing new material in one form or another. Or, we have to keep finding new audiences for our old material.
The key word here is new, and keeping things fresh.
Last year, when my second novel came out, WholeHeart Communications Owner Christy Ragle suggested that I develop a presentation on self-publishing. At first, I balked at the notion. I wasn't an expert. I didn't have all the answers.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that while no, I wasn't a pro, I knew enough to publish two books and certainly had advice and opinions on the topic. I also realized that no one has "all the answers." But I had some answers. And some behind-the-cover insights and thoughts on the experience of self-publishing and what comes next. It could all prove helpful to those thinking of going for it.
I also have had a number of would-be authors approach me asking for advice, or inquiring if I would read and comment on their manuscripts, and even if I would edit their books.
So I put something together and realized that yes, I had enough for a program. It's gotten me into a few venues and this Saturday, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., I'll roll out a sample taken from the larger program in the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne. I'll be speaking during a panel discussion on "Top 10 tips for finding readers."
I'll also be around the rest of the day at the noon to 5 p.m. author fair. It's all free to the public, including these workshops:
* Secrets of Successful Self-Publishing 12:30-1:30 pm
Learn how to self-publish like a pro.
* How to Write 50K Words in 30 Days 1:45-3:15 pm
Writing Workshop with Michelle Weidenbenner.
* Writing Down the Genres 3:30-4:30 pm
Four authors who write in different genres: romance, Christian, non-fiction/history, and memoir—will discuss their process.
No preregistration is required to attend either of the panels or the writing class.
As writers, authors, or speakers, you never know if a particular presentation you come up with will be one that's requested over and over. My best tip in this area is that when you are developing a program, make it useful to those listening to you. It' not just about you. Give those you are speaking to food for thought, encouragement, challenge, how-to information or SOMETHING that has potential to help or change them. Years ago in the journalism field, we used to call this "news you can use."
Also, don't shy away from writing new programs to suit new opportunities that come your way.
Maybe it's not just food for thought, but actual food! A Zionsville librarian approached me asking if I would do a presentation on recipes from my first book. Oh, and bring samples. I said I could do that, sure, and told him that I would like to be reimbursed for the food expenses. He said it wasn't a problem. So I wrote a program called "Novel Food," shopped for, prepared and hauled in two dishes from recipes found in Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast.
One day at work the phone rang. A local elementary school asked if I would give a back-to-school program to staff, parents and kids on some aspect of literacy. Umm, sure? I mean, sure! I put one together called "What's Your Clue?" I've used it since then at a library summer reading program kickoff.
The point is that if we're going to continue our journey, we have to think out of the book or books we wrote, and delve into new territory.
Will it be perfect? Are we experts? No and no. Will it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? If you love writing and sharing with readers, yes. It is indeed worth it.
Donna Cronk is author of two inspirational novels, quite a few programs, and thousands of newspaper columns and feature stories. To connect with her about her programs or books, email her at email@example.com.
On Saturday, Nov. 4 from noon to 4, consider stopping by the Fishers (Hamilton East) Library, 5 Municipal Drive at the Booktoberfest Author Fair. I’m grateful to be among the 24 selected for inclusion in this event.
Each author is invited to donate a book for a silent auction. I'm providing a copy of Cooking From Hoosier Cabinet Country surrounded by a few cookie cutters and a holiday candle inside a round wicker serving tray.
I was part of a team several years ago that produced these vintage-style cookbooks at the New Castle Courier-Times where I work.
Hoosier cabinets were made at “The Hoosier” factory in New Castle and I've always thought the town should make more of a big deal of that heritage. For many years I coordinated the newspaper's annual recipe contest and along the way, renamed the popular event to the Hoosier Cabinet Cooking Contest.
Many years' worth of those top recipes in categories of snacks, vegetables, salads, main dishes, breads and desserts were collected into one volume. It's a lovely community cookbook offering regional home-cooking.
Several former co-workers were passionate about getting these cookbooks out there -- Brenda, Betty and Sue. I'm grateful to have worked with them on the project.
The cookbooks were so well received that they sold out after two printings. I bought a few extras with my employee discount and figure this is an ideal occasion to donate one for the library auction. I placed it inside a round, flat basket and dolled it up with some duplicate cookie cutters in my collection and a mini-candle. I must admit that I’m looking forward to seeing the winning bid and who gets it.
Back at my table, I’ll be offering free Christmas gift wrapping (with purchase) on my books. Last year at a bazaar, one shopper took me up on this offer to the tune of seven copies! They were destined as her gifts to members of her book club.
I’m also recycling the leftover Halloween candy with a basket full of it along with some flavored teas – free samples for the taking. I look forward to seeing what surprises the library staff has in store in this beautiful library.
Fort Wayne on Saturday, Nov. 11
The following weekend, I’ll be spending Veterans Day, noon to 5, at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne. The area is truly new territory as I’ve not been in or around there for any programs or book-club discussions.
Along with participating in the fair, I was invited to serve on a panel discussion about "The Secrets of Successful Self-Publishing." This will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Before questions and discussion, each of the four panelists get 10 minutes and I’m devoting mine to practical, proven ideas on how to find readers for your books. Join us in meeting room A.
This author fair was recommended a year ago by a Wayne County author who raved about what a class act it is so I checked it out this year and am pleased to be a part of it.
What's even more special is that my friend Sandy Moore was also selected as a participating author at both fairs so we’ll get to spend some special time together. Sandy will have her children’s book, Sadie’s Search for Home. Her follow-up book, Doodle's Search for Success, will be out before Christmas. I had the pleasure of helping edit the delightful book about a spunky beagle.
More fun things are also in the works but for now, I’ll simply invite you to Fishers and Fort Wayne. I'll have plenty of copies of both books, and be happy to discuss writing, self-publishing, marketing or programs I can provide for your clubs and organizations.
In case you're new to this blog, my books are Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. They are also available on Amazon and at a new venue that I will soon be telling you about when the timing is right.
As new territory emerges, the journey keeps rolling. Believe me, I'm more surprised -- and grateful -- than anyone!
I’m not an especially early riser and rare is the occasion when I’ve turned on the lights at the newspaper office. But if you invite me to give a program, I’ll probably get there early.
It’s not a point of pride – there’s nothing to be proud of here – it’s just how it is. It has more to do with fear. Often I set out alone into the countryside or onto the interstate headed toward my carefully GPS’ed destination. I probably have never been to or at least noticed the place before, and so if getting there an hour early is on the safe side, two hours are even safer.
What I like is get to the church, banquet hall, or library, breathe a sigh of relief, park the car somewhere discreet ... and chill. All the better if no one is around to speculate that “the speaker” has arrived.
I may kick off my shoes, get as cozy as can be, slide back my seat, unpack a Bible-study lesson I’m working on, a book I’m reading, or maybe pay some bills, call a friend or the husband, clean out my purse, update my planner, listen to music or a podcast.
The point is that no time is wasted; it is cherished. I’m happy as a clam, savoring the experience of being where I need to be early and looking forward to the evening ahead.
The problem is, sometimes I get caught in the act of early.
A while back, I was scheduled to attend a book club’s discussion. The meeting was mid-afternoon on a Saturday in a town 70 miles from home at a residence where I knew no one, not even the woman who invited me.
My plan was to find it, do a drive by, then scope out a nice parking lot somewhere and take it easy for a couple hours. With a tote bag filled with projects to work on, around noon I found the address and slowly drove by the correct street number.
Wouldn’t you know it! The hostess chose that moment to do some yard work on a frosty spring day. She looked up just as I passed and started waving and motioning for me to stop!
Rats! I was caught!
She insisted that I come inside. I told her that truly, I had no intention of doing that, and gave her my story about how I like to find my destination early. I don’t think she even listened, because she would hear nothing of the idea of me waiting it out elsewhere.
So inside I went and although I’m sure she had tons of things to do to get her home and herself ready for company, instead we sat and chatted. What a gracious hostess! I wonder if she dislikes me for the bother.
But really, I would have been more comfortable showing up when I was supposed to have. The last thing I wanted to do was mess up her day. People simply don't believe me when I tell them that chill-time is part of the plan.
Last spring I traveled to a country church in Ohio for a mother-daughter banquet. It was a gorgeous day, the kind you dream about all winter long. I was maybe an hour early and thought I’d hide in plain sight in the parking lot and enjoy the warm breeze. Surely no one would notice me as there were other cars around. Besides, only the person inviting me would recognize me, and even that was a maybe.
But no, I was found out and quickly at that. I begged off coming inside, but it wasn’t long before another person pegged me as the speaker. I suspected that I might be the subject of talk in the kitchen about why I refused to go inside. So I did.
Last night I spoke to two chapters of a teachers’ sorority in Indy. It was a dinner meeting, which meant I’d be navigating rush-hour traffic through the heart of Madison, Hamilton and Marion counties.
This could mean I’d get there faster crawling on my hands and knees. So I left early. Really early.
An hour and a half before the event was to start, I got a text from the hostess, reminding me about the evening in case I had forgotten, and that it started at 6.
“Looking forward to seeing you and everyone!” I texted back.
I didn’t tell her I was already there.
It's all about the new territory.
This week was a good one in the book-marketing department because the in-box brought details and posters from two large Indiana libraries affirming my acceptance as author at their fall fairs.
What that means is this. Potential new readers who might take an interest in my books will pass my table on two Saturdays in two separate cities. I might sell a couple, a few, or even a lot of books. But here's the real bait: if one of those readers happens to connect positively with what I write, that might generate an invite to a book club where all her friends have read it and want to discuss it.
Or it might mean that there isn't a peep until a winter's night when I get a call asking if I would be the speaker at her church's mother-daughter banquet come May. Or a beautiful hand-written letter arrives in the mail saying how much one of the books was enjoyed.
Or, nothing at all might result.
New territory. That's always the goal in author world.
When friends ask if I'm still selling books or doing anything with them, I see their surprise when I tell them yes. After all, they read the things a while ago, and in this super-fast-paced world, everything seems to be old news fast.
A book is like a homemade meal. Both take a lot of time to produce. There's all that ingredient-gathering, figuring out the recipes, having the right utensils, the cooking knowledge to prepare the dish properly, getting the right people to the table, and then, after such a long process to reach the end result, the book is read, the meal devoured.
Before the dishes are washed or the book widely distributed, the questions come: What's for dessert? (or) What are you doing next?
Well, if you're me or a whole bunch of other authors I know, what's next means looking for that new territory.
So along with the Fishers author fair, there's this one, which I heard through the author-vine, is a pretty terrific one, in Fort Wayne.
So what I know for now is that the author journey continues, and I am grateful to the Fishers / Hamilton County and the Fort Wayne / Allen County library staffs for selecting my books -- and me -- as a part of their author fairs.
If you or friends you know live in those areas, I'd love to visit with any of you on either of the first two Saturdays in November. The journey continues and as long as I can find new territory, I hope to remain on it.
AND, a bonus: My friend Sandy Moore, author of the children's chapter book, Sadie's Search for Home, and a new one coming out in December (which I'll let her announce more about when she's ready) also made the cut for these two author fairs. So we get to spend some time together. Any recommendations for a dinner spot in Fort Wayne?
In other news ...
Author Cathy Shouse of the Muncie branch of Pen Women sent this release along to The Courier-Times and I thought I’d share it here in full.
Cathy hosted me as a speaker last year and invited me to join the group. If there were more hours in the day, I would. If you’re looking for a group focused on the creative arts, Friday’s meeting would be a great way to check it out.
I met the guest speaker during a Tipton author fair two years ago and instantly liked her a lot. We’ve kept in touch and I’m happy to give her a plug, below.
Not only is this traditionally published author incredibly talented with art and words, she’s transparent and approachable. Here’s the info that Cathy sent:
Author and graphic designer Kelly O’Dell Stanley of Crawfordsville will speak at a luncheon program at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20 in Muncie. Her topic is: “How to Express Your Creativity in Unique Ways.”
O’Dell Stanley’s work has been included in design anthologies and PRINT Magazine’s Design Annual and she has received a variety of awards for her design.
The author discovered writing as a new way of practicing her creativity. In 2013, her essay won first place in the Writer’s Digest Competition in inspirational writing. She’s published two books with Tyndale since 2015; Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God and Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God.
Her original monthly calendars are downloaded by hundreds of people worldwide Visit her at (www.kellyostanley.com or on Facebook at Kelly O’Dell Stanley, Author)
The catered meeting is an outreach of the National League of American Pen Women’s Muncie branch at Westminster Villa’s Community Hall, 5600 Westminster Blvd., Muncie. The cost is $10. Space is limited. To attend call Barb Kehoe at 765-288-2098 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pen Women is a national, non-profit organization with headquarters in Washington D.C., whose members are artists, musicians and writers.
Whew! It's Wednesday and things have been busy for quite a few days on end. I have also been gone the last three nights with one thing or another so I welcome today to play catch up.
I'll start with a big thank you to Phyllis Slavens for inviting me several months ago to present the "Bloom" program to her Chapter H P.E.O Sisters at Thursday's dessert meeting at Sarah Bowman's beautiful home. It was my first time with the group and I thank each one there for such a kind and enthusiastic reception.
For years, club news about P.E.O. has crossed my desk for placement in the newspaper, but I had never attended one of the meetings. Phyllis filled me in on the club's purpose, beginning with what P.E.O. stands for. Turns out it is Philanthropic Educational Organization, serving women in the U.S. and Canada.
It dates to Iowa in 1869 and New Castle alone has three chapters. Chapter H is the oldest of the three, dating to 1922.
The main focus, Phyllis said, is "supporting women's education through various scholarships and we actually sponsor Cottey College in Nevada, MO, an all-women's college."
If you'd like to learn more about P.E.O. check out www.peointernational.org and www.peoindiana.org.
My thanks again, ladies! What a great way to spend a long lunch hour -- giving a program to such a receptive, interesting group.
Saturday was a day I had looked forward to for quite a while. It was Founders Day in my hometown of Liberty, Indiana, and I had the pleasure of presenting four mini-programs on hometown folks past and present.
The thrill of the day came first thing during my talk on Civil War General Ambrose Burnside who was born and raised in Liberty. West Point educated, a top general in the Civil War, eventual governor of Rhode Island, he is also known for inventing an upgraded rifle, the Burnside Carbine. It was shorter, easier, and quicker to load and use, and the U.S. War Department commissioned the guns to outfit soldiers from Burnside.
A gentleman from the Union County Historical Society showed up, at the request of festival chair Steve Logue, with an original Burnside Carbine! What a thrill.
I need to thank several people who helped me with Founders Day. First, to Kelly Finch and the Founders Day Committee for including me in the festivities. It is always my honor to return home, and to be asked to take part is a treat.
I also want to thank Joni McMechan Checchia and Bob Jenkins for their help in putting together mini-programs about them and their lives today. Both have fond memories of our hometown and what growing up in Union County still means to them. I thank them, as well, for sending the autographed photos that I gave away on Saturday. Thank you both so much.
Also, I wanted to clarify something. The Liberty Herald ran a nice article previewing Founders Day. However, it stated that I was one of the paid entertainers. I was not and do not wish to be paid for being there! It was surely my honor.
Thank you to Rita Teeters for loaning her Raggedy Ann doll for my display, and to my brother Tim and husband Brian for keeping me company Saturday. It was nice visiting with so many from my hometown. You all make me homesick! My heart's home is always Union County ... no matter how far I roam!
Next up: From 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, I'll be joining authors Colette Huxford, Kevin Harry and Sandy Moore at a signing in the Middletown-Fall Creek Library, 780 High St. during the Middletown (Indiana) Fall Fun Fest.
Lots of small-town fun going on there Saturday. Stop by the library and say hi if you are in town. My thanks to Colette for inviting me, and to the library for hosting us.
OK! Cross the midweek blog post off the to-do list. Now I've got to get busy with the rest of it. Happy mid-week and mid-September, everyone.
Please join me this Saturday, Sept. 9, on the Union County courthouse square for four mini-presentations on Four Famous Folks From Liberty. At 10 a.m. I'll profile Civil War General Ambrose Burnside; 12:30 p.m. is the real "Little Orphant Annie," Mary Alice "Allie" Smith Gray; 1:45 p.m. will be Voice of the 500 Bob Jenkins, and at 2:45 p.m. is our own Miss Indiana 1988, Joni McMechan Checchia.
This weekend, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 9-10, Union County, Indiana, honors its past at the annual Founder’s Days on the courthouse lawn in Liberty.
Last year I took part in the programming by reading some Hoosier poetry. The committee invited me back this year, but I decided to personalize the program with Union County history. And since local history—or any history, for that matter--is always more interesting when it speaks of people (his story = the story of people), I thought it would be fun to create profiles on some Union County natives whose stories go far beyond the small county’s borders.
While brainstorming, it occurred that when we think of a pioneer, we generally associate the term with Conestoga wagons heading west. But pioneers are also those who explore new territories in ways in addition to homesteading and community-building. I chose to highlight four.
A Civil War General
Liberty native General Ambrose Burnside was a national figure in a troubled time. He was the first person to come to mind when developing this program.
As Civil War Commander of the Grand Army of the Potomac, an entire seminar could be done on his service in that sobering war where 620,000 Americans died on our own soil. What I didn’t realize were his additional contributions to American life.
On a lighter note, for example, his name is still associated in pop culture for his unique facial hair, whereby his very name created the term “sideburns.” He invented an upgraded rifle from previous models – the Burnside Carbine – and was co-founder and first president of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
He went on to become a three-term governor of Rhode Island, a foreign-war mediator, a U.S. Senator, and – a fascinating side note – he was sitting under President Lincoln’s balcony in Ford’s Theater when the great president was slain.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, I’ll unpack more of Burnside’s story in the first of four 15-minute presentations on the courthouse lawn.
An orphan who inspired the Raggedy Ann doll
Specific details about her childhood are unclear. After all, the year was 1850 and there was no reason to think that the Liberty farm girl, Mary Alice “Allie” Smith, would in any way be associated with fame or legacy.
It is known, however, that the girl became homeless, an “orphan child” and as was the custom of the day, she was sent to “earn her board and keep” with a family that needed a “servant girl” to help around the house.
She found a home with a benevolent family in Greenfield, Indiana, whose home can be toured today as a museum. It was the childhood home of the man who would become The Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley. Little Jim was fond of “Allie” and the girl inspired his most famous work, “Little Orphant Annie.”
The story behind the poem, as well as the legs that the poem took in inspiring adaptive works – books, a movie musical, and of course the ever-popular play, “Annie,” not to mention one of the world’s most recognized dolls, Raggedy Ann.
And to think, the true orphan child is from Liberty, Indiana. The presentation about her is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
An auto sport broadcaster
Veteran auto sport broadcaster, ESPN and other national-media talent, radio and track Voice of the 500, and even though he is retired, current track voice each May, Bob Jenkins was raised on Main Street in Liberty.
It was in our town that his international career covering auto racing around the globe was nurtured. He became enamored with watching small-town racer Levi Dunaway get his car ready for a Richmond run on Friday nights, and as a kid, Bob’s own raceway was the “oval” behind Miles-Richmond, where his dad worked.
Yet despite his successes around the world through his broadcasting and movie work, Jenkins reveals that he has thought about writing a book – one largely about growing up in a small town.
I had the privilege of writing about Bob in March when he gave a talk at a historical society fundraiser in New Castle, and we have emailed each other since with updates for this talk.
I’ll speak about Bob at 1:45 p.m. Saturday and have some autographed photos for those attending to win as door prizes.
Miss Indiana 1988 is former Liberty farm girl Joni McMechan Checchia. Today, Joni lives in Houston, Texas with her family, Paul, a doctor, and son Andrew, 16.
A Northwestern University graduate, Joni is an interior designer whose clients are located throughout the country, and she does volunteer work in her community. (By the way, her home was spared by Hurricane Harvey but many friends there felt the brunt of it).
Joni provides insights into the significance of growing up on the family farm, unpacks some special Miss Indiana memories such as touring with the Miss America USO program throughout the world, and sharing what it was like to be Miss Indiana and represent the Miss America scholarship program internationally.
She sent some autographed photos from her reign as Miss Indiana that will be given as door prizes during the 2:45 p.m. presentation.
If you are interested in these Union County legends, I hope you’ll come see me on the courthouse square Saturday. I’ll have a table set up with some memorabilia that might surprise you – from photos of the four I’m featuring to a children’s book I found that’s written about Ambrose Burnside.
As Brian and I wrestled my tent Saturday morning at the first-ever Pendleton Music and Art Festival downtown, a task that emphasizes my vertical challenges, here comes a helpful soul who lends a hand. He didn't know us, but quickly I recognized him. Never mind the FAMOUS AUTHOR tag -- I had heard about George Kramer the day before via a text from son Sam.
George works with Sam at St. Vincent Hospital, and the heads-up came that this good Samaritan would be selling his books at the festival. Turns out George had the next booth, and is a friendly guy who loves writing The Arcadis Series in the sci-fi genre. (www.amazon.com/author/georgekramer). I love his sense of humor, spotted immediately in the author tag.
The least I could do was share my chicken pasta salad, above.
Even though I was in my adopted hometown of Pendleton, and quite a few friendly local faces stopped by, it was also old-home day in the form of author friends.
Tipton writer Janis Thornton bunked with me and as usual, we did some brainstorming on a variety of writing and marketing ideas. Here she signs one of her cozy mysteries, the spanking-new one being Dead Air & Double Dares.
My pal Sandy Moore took part as well, signing a copy of her children's book, Sadie's Search for Home.
How cool is the local coffee house, Falls Perk, just steps from our booths? An iced mocha was in order for my own personal afternoon perk.
Not a bad time when there's pleasant local music in the background throughout the day, community folks passing by and stopping to say hi, authors and other friendly vendors all around, including Spiceland's Mark Herbkersman and Mt. Summit-turned Pendleton resident, writer Christy Luellen who was there selling antique musical instruments and sheet music.
It was fun to make a new friend in George. Thanks for telling me about him, Sam. Nice guy!
Life is about people and relationships. It was fun to visit with old friends, and make a new one besides. Saturday was a good day. Thanks to everyone who visited the festival.